By Shea Parton & Ryan Zoradi
Photos by Lonely Leap
On March 22nd, we will release the fourth installment of our “Apolis Conversations” film series featuring Dan Pallotta. The aim of “Apolis Conversations” is to highlight the work of inspiring industry leaders that we are honored to consider Apolis Advocates. In anticipation of our newest film, re-visit our previous work starring Jason Russell from Invisible Children, Jonathan Olinger from Discover the Journey, and Marc Koska of SafePoint.
The subject of our newest film, Dan Pallotta, is the author of the brilliant and provocative book, Uncharitable. We first picked up Uncharitable back in 2009 after reading a review in The Economist magazine. The book’s subtitle, “How restraints on non-profits undermine their potential,” caught our eye, and quickly turned the Parton family into Pallotta’s unofficial West Coast sales team. In Uncharitable, Pallotta advocates for reforming the distinction between for-profit and non-profit organizations, arguing the rules need to be altered to give charities the same freedoms we give to the giant consumer brands. Many of these ideas are featured in his Harvard Business Review blog. One of his most recent blogs, “The Kony 2012 ‘Controversy’,” is a defense of Invisible Children’s spending on marketing and film production.
Dan’s journey from Harvard, where he graduated at the age of 20, to the curriculum of the Harvard Business School, which published a case study on his company Pallotta TeamWorks in 2002, is a story of innovation, frustration, and re-imagination. Pallotta first entered into the non-profit world in 1983 when he organized a trans-continental bike ride to raise money for Oxfam-America. A decade later, he founded Pallotta TeamWorks, a for-profit company that used similar bike rides and walks to raise $581 million dollars for AIDS and breast cancer awareness charities. In 2002, non-profits including the Avon Products Foundation parted ways with Pallotta and his team in response to pressures to lower costs. Their net revenues to their causes saw dramatic and tragic declines instead. Dan believes our moral responsibility is to liberate non-profits from guilt-ridden campaigns and shoestring budgets, and instead give them the permissions we give Coca-Cola and Exxon – to take big risks, attract investment, make mistakes, and invest in themselves over the long-term in order to “solve the most vexing problems facing humanity.”