We like our columnists to stir up controversy, and Nancy Lublin certainly came through in Fast Company's first Do Something column, "No Vacancy." Readers felt strongly, both pro ("a spanking good article") and con ("harsh," "nasty," "condescending"). For more opinions on the February issue, including author Bill McKibben's observations on our Green Business column about wind power, read on — and check out the comments on our Web site, fastcompany.com.
Help Not Wanted
Nancy Lublin (Do Something, February) makes some fair points about for-profit executives who overestimate their value in the nonprofit world. But my own research shows that nonprofit managers are often guilty of their own brand of hubris. Our charities still want us to give at the office for their sprawling, unaccountable operations; they want us to volunteer our time to drive buses and empty bedpans. But this is not the experience most of us seek. We want accountability and results; we want to see the good that our money does; we want to put our special skills to use and feel like we are changing the world. Nonprofits that don't grasp this will lose out on a vast reserve of talent.
Daniel J. Kadlec
New York, New York
This column was right on the mark. This isn't your mother's nonprofit sector. Especially since 9/11, there have been seismic shifts in philanthropy that are producing a whole new generation of tough and visionary leaders testing their mettle amid the simultaneous challenges of unprecedented rivalry for new dollars, hyperfickle and demanding donors, rapid globalization, and an innovation gap brought on by the surge of social media. Newly laid-off for-profit execs may find they lack the skills and community-organizing know-how it now takes to make a difference.
New York, New York
I have been part of the nonprofit sector for years, and to say "Now that I'm in, please slam the door" is a philosophy I reject. After all, it's not as if we have all the answers: Those of us working in nonprofits know how dysfunctional so many of them are. Let's not be small-minded. There's nothing wrong with going between sectors, and many of the skill sets translate well.
When times were good, nonprofit executives were getting jobs at for-profit companies. Now that the situation is reversed, it's somehow a bad thing? Nonprofits need all the help they can get, especially if that help comes with years of business experience.
Brooklyn, New York
I am a hotel executive who joined a nonprofit's organizing group. With the recent economic downturn, I have been inundated with friends' requests to join our organization — people with time on their hands who were told by their therapist to find something to put their heart into. Nonprofits don't need people who are bored; we need people with a passion for our cause.
Winds of Change
For many family farms, wind-power technology can make the difference (Green Business, February). The deterrent for many is the mind-set that wind power is not viable unless they are in a position to access the grid. The same view is standing in the way of solar in areas where sun is abundant, but the grid is nowhere near. This mind-set is wrong because we have attached the word "fuel" to substances that are, in fact, energy-storage media. The fossil-fuel segment is a group of storage media for energy from the ages. So how do we store and transmit the abundant energy freely available from the sun, be it wind, waves, or its direct rays as they strike the earth? We should use the most versatile and abundant energy-storage medium on the planet: hydrogen. If the towering windmills in remote regions convert the energy of the wind into hydrogen, feeding back enough to compress it, that energy will be there to be harvested periodically by tanker trucks. The same is true for energy deposited by the sun in the most-remote desert areas. Wind and wave turbines can convert these resources to hydrogen to be picked up by special oceangoing vessels. Take it a step further. I live a few miles from Niagara Falls. Two great hydro projects face each other across the Niagara gorge. They must vary their use of the water to meet the demands of the grid. What if the available energy were to be used to the maximum allowed 24/7? And instead of attempting to send the electricity hundreds of miles on the grid, it was converted to hydrogen and then sent to the areas where it is needed? More efficient, more economical. The grid is a 19th-century solution that has outlived its usefulness in the 21st century.
W.T. "Bill" McKibben
Buffalo, New York
Your profile "Shaun White Lifts Off" (February) was very prescient. If Michael Phelps understood his brand as well as White understands his, perhaps he wouldn't be losing endorsements. Then again, maybe he didn't inhale.
"Brilliant: Wireless Electricity Is Here" (February) is incredible! What's more amazing is that Faraday's original technology dates back almost a century. I guess it's another "Watch this space!"
Peter R.D. Harris
Auckland, New Zealand
Women in Web 2.0
We are very happy that you highlight women in tech/Internet ("The Most Influential Women in Technology," February), as there are many women who are true role models for a new generation, yet get less press than they deserve. Next thing: more women getting funded.
Talking About Evolution
I'd like to ask "Why Does Darwin Still Matter?" (February) myself. Why, after all these years, do the scientific and intellectual elite continue to hold onto the dated notion that life and everything we know somehow hinges on a theory that has been shown to be lacking in any evidence of the affirmative? The idea that something sprang from nothing and created everything is simply wishful thinking and falls woefully short of any evidence to support it.
Fast Fixes In the February issue, the following credits were omitted: For the cover and "Shaun White Lifts Off," styling was by April Johnson, prop styling by Michael Bednark, and grooming by Berta Camal. For the "Inside the White House" sidebar, the photograph was by Jamie Chung and prop styling by Laura Dotolo.
For "Brilliant," styling was by Mimi Fisher, grooming by Kevin Shapiro, and prop styling for the gear photos by Laura Dotolo. We regret the omissions.
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A version of this article appeared in the April 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.