BY SUZANNE LIM, SALT
26 Sep-Dec 2008
In his new book, Willie Cheng offers a fresh, engaging perspective on the non-profit world. Suzanne Lim flips the pages of this weighty tome.
Many in the local non-profit scene have lamented about the lack of published resources dealing with the conceptual and strategic issues that plague the non-profit world. Certainly, none has dealt specifically with the non-profit scene here in Singapore –until now.
Those who know Willie Cheng, the former NVPC chairman, well will be thrilled to find that Doing Good Well: What Does (and Does Not) Make Sense in the Nonprofit World is 20 chapters of characteristically provocative insights on the non-profit world, warts and all, peppered with personal anecdotes and Cheng’s trademark quirky sense of humour.
Well-versed in the ways of the corporate world thanks to his 26 years at Andersen Consulting and then Accenture, Cheng makes the trenchant point that applying pure corporate principles to the non-profit world is a recipe for certain (if not ultimate) disaster.
The first half of the book discusses and analyses this position in detail, with Cheng often offering radical views. In chapter 5, Endgame: Extinction, for instance, he argues that contrary to the conventional definition of success (which is growth and more growth), the real definition of success for a non-profit should be its demise.
Throughout, Cheng prods and forces uncomfortable questions. How charitable are we really? And for those of us who fall into the category of society’s elite, are we really pulling our weight on the charity front? Corporations are not spared either as he questions the rationale behind businesses engaging in corporate social responsibility, offering his own insight as to what the positioning of good corporate social responsibility really ought to be.
For many in the sector, chapter 19, NKF: The Saga and Its Paradigms, is the first time Cheng has examined the scandal and its fallout in any great depth. Throughout the chapter, Cheng thoughtfully applies the various paradigms covered in the earlier chapters to NKF, making this case study a riveting read.
That the book manages to fill a much needed gap in the non-profit literary scene while being, at the same time, an intelligent, analytical and thoroughly engrossing read makes it a worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in the non-profit world.
The original article may also be accessed here.
SALT is published by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) in Singapore. Its circulation of 8,000 is sent to executives and decision makers involved in the nonprofit sector in Singapore. It is the only magazine of its kind in Singapore.