Good to great…to good again, this time with a capital G

As usual, Sean Stannard-Stockton has a fascinating conversation underway at Tactical Philanthropy–this time on words that describe great philanthropy.

So far, words submitted by contributors include:

  • passion
  • connected
  • juicy
  • impact
  • innovative programs
  • measurement of outcomes
  • performance management
  • accountability and transparency
  • capable leadership
  • theory of change

My own personal preference has yet to make an appearance, namely:

  • good

As in, you know, virtuous. As in, “versus evil”. Light shining in the darkness and the darkness comprehending it not and such.

Just as non-profit nation is marching under the battle cry of good to great (and passionate and juicy and impactful and measurable), for-profit nation has vaulted over us heading in the opposite direction, from great to good.

Morally good, that is.

“Good is better than great,” contends Umair Haque in his Harvard Business Review article, The Great to Good Manifesto . “Many are great. But very, very few are good.”


While the GiveWell blog last week was publishing a great-is-better-than-good post entitled Haiti earthquake relief seems less cost-effective than everyday international aid, Pepsi–through its Refresh initiative–is getting in touch with its Inner Yoda. Writes Haque:

We often equate “doing good” with, a la Google, passively being “not evil.” Yet, they’re not the same. Yoda knew that good is more than just the absence of evil. And he was no mere wise elder — he was also one of the most deadly of the Jedi Masters. So the Yoda Concept says: going from great to good happens when a company goes on the offensive against rivals who are merely great and who are failing to do good. It isn’t enough to simply “do no evil.” Pepsi’s Refresh is interesting in this light because it’s Pepsi going on the offensive against Coke in terms of making each dollar do more good, and less bad.

Still, Haque’s praise for Pepsi’s great to good approach is tempered:

Pepsi’s great failing with Refresh is this: merely investing marketing dollars in worthwhile causes can never make up for something as economically meaningless as merely selling sugar-water. A culture of meaning means that Pepsi needs to refresh the idea of Pepsi — not just how it’s marketed.

The beauty of Sean’s question about words that describe great philanthropy is that it forces us to declare what we view to be the ultimate end of our work–what it looks like, in other words, when we win. For the purveyors of sugar-water, they purport that more is at stake than measurement of outcomes and management of performance. It may all be little more than marketing goofer dust for Pepsi, but it is fascinating to see who is talking the most these days about, as Haque puts us, “making each dollar do more good, and less bad.”

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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