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Center would unite hearts and heads

New Center for Non-Profit Organizations

Four or five years ago, University of Cincinnati president Joe Steger started getting edgy over the way nonprofit organizations were operating. At one end of the spectrum are executives who misuse funds, and at the other end are organizations that struggle to provide services.

"Look at the American Red Cross debacle (attempting to use its 9/11 funds for other causes)," Steger says. "Then we had the United Way president with an expensive New York condo and a chauffeur. Come on, what is this?"

So the man who has been president of the city's largest nonprofit for nearly 20 years wants to lend his expertise by creating a center for nonprofits at the College of Business. A demand exists, he believes. After all, the U.S. has more than 1.7 million nonprofit organizations, a number that has increased at more than double the business sector's growth rate, and individuals' annual charitable giving increased by more than $10 billion between '95-98, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

"There aren't many comprehensive centers for nonprofits," he says. "The few programs at other schools are small, maybe offer a few courses or staff one person to do data analysis. And most of the business schools are mainly related to the profit-making businesses or government."

He recalls visiting a soup kitchen once and noticing how slowly meals were served. "The fellow running it said his mission was to serve as many meals as he could to people in need, but I saw some of the people working for him. One guy would pick up food in the kitchen and literally forget where it went.

"It dawned on me that this fellow gave jobs to people who came in for meals because he felt badly for them. But he was losing 15 to 20 percent of his capacity to deliver meals because the people didn't know what they were doing.

"He was just a nice guy who was killing his own mission. People's hearts are in it, but they never have the funds for consultants or studies to help them improve their effectiveness."

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