Giving Compass’ Take:
• Philanthropy Daily examines the story of Boys Town, the prominent nonprofit that came under scrutiny in the 1970s for mismanagement and mission drift.
• How can organizations avoid the same mistakes? Transparency is crucial, but large foundations need to make sure that everybody is on the same page when it comes to the core vision.
Name this organization: It [recently celebrated] its centennial, an event so significant that the U.S. Mint has issued commemorative coins. Its founder was one of the most charismatic creators of a nonprofit in American history, and the actor who played him won an Oscar for his performance.
But it’s a nonprofit mission that has largely drifted away from its founder’s vision.
Impact Philanthropy is a complex topic, and others found these selections from the Impact Giving archive from Giving Compass to be good resources.
The answer: Boys Town, the Omaha-based charity that was founded by Msgr. Edward Flanagan in 1917 as a place orphan boys could call home.
The extent of the drift was not known until 1971 when Warren Buffett, who owned the weekly Omaha Sun, assigned four reporters to investigate the organization. Boys Town stonewalled, until an Omaha Sun reporter got the Boys Town Form 990. In those days, the only way you could get a Form 990 was to go to an IRS office in Philadelphia — and pay a dollar a page for the copy.
The Boys Town Form 990 showed that the organization had amassed an endowment of $191 million in 1971, and was on pace to have over $200 million by 1972.
Read the full article about nonprofit mission drift by Martin Morse Wooster at Philanthropy Daily.
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