Dan Pallotta Profile

  • He has changed the landscape of philanthropy, making it possible for ordinary individuals to accomplish extraordinary feats for important causes.

  • He invented the multi-day charity event, a method that has raised billions of dollars to combat AIDS, breast cancer, and pediatric leukemia.

  • His best-selling book Uncharitable has sparked a new conversation about the societal benefits of running charities like businesses.

  • Not only does he talk the talk, he walks the walk having ridden his bike thousands of miles to raise funds.
  • Humanitarian entrepreneur, Dan Pallotta is one of the world’s most forward voices on philanthropy and innovation. A pioneering leader in social enterprise, he invented the multi-day charitable event industry including the Breast Cancer 3-Day walks and the multi-day AIDS rides. Within the past 10 years, Dan’s methods have been responsible for raising billions of dollars for important causes.

    Dan began reshaping the nonprofit sector at an early age. While in college he organized 38 of his classmates to bike over 4,000 miles to fight world hunger. The experience later served as a spring board for other similar events.

    Dan is the founder and Chief Humanity Officer of Advertising for Humanity, a full-service brand and inspiration agency for the humanitarian sector. He is also founder and President of the Charity Defense Council, a new national leadership movement dedicated to transforming the way the donating public thinks about charity and change. He has given two iconic TED Talks that have been viewed millions of times.

    Dan’s best-selling book Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential has sparked a new conversation about economic freedom for the humanitarian sector. The Stanford Social Innovation Review said that the book “deserves to become the nonprofit sector’s new manifesto.”

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      “I GUESS YOU’D SAY I’M A HUMAN POTENTIALIST… I believe deeply in the potential of people and in the potential of our society. And I don’t think we’ve come anywhere close to tapping that potential. Nowhere close.”

      Dan has been committed to human transformation since he began studying it as a freshman at Harvard. “I think my classmates thought I had a screw loose,” he says. “There weren’t many popular frames of reference for human consciousness back in 1979. Words like ‘possibility’ and ‘transformation’ weren’t in vogue. But I knew from the moment I first encountered them that transformation technologies held the key to creating the kind of world we all want to live in.”

      Dan invented the multi-day charitable event industry. He created the Breast Cancer 3-Day walks and the multi-day AIDS Rides, which raised in excess of half a billion dollars in nine years and were the subject of one of the first Harvard Business School case studies on social enterprise. The model and methods he created are now employed by dozens of charities and have raised in excess of $1.5 billion more for important causes from pediatric leukemia to AIDS to suicide prevention and many others. You can view detailed financial results of the events, see photos, videos and more on the Pallotta TeamWorks website.

      In the last five years alone, Dan has given over 275 talks on philanthropy and innovation in 34 states and eight countries. He is a William J. Clinton Distinguished Lecturer, and has spoken twice at TED, and at and for Google, E-Bay, KPMG, UBS, Stanford, Wharton, Brown, Harvard Business School, Harvard’s Hauser Center for Nonprofits, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Council on Foundations, the Philanthropy Roundtable, the Gates Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, national and global conferences for United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Childrens Miracle Network, and many others.

      Dan’s iconic TED 2013 Talk has been viewed more than 3.8 million times It is one of the 100 most-viewed TED Talks of all time. It generated tremendous conversation, and is one of the twenty most-commented TED Talks of all time. It is one of the featured talks in the book, “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking,” by Chris Anderson, Head of TED.

      Dan is the author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, the best-selling title in the history of Tufts University Press. The Stanford Social Innovation Review said that the book, “deserves to become the nonprofit sector’s new manifesto.” His newest book is, Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has described it as “An Apollo program for American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector”. Dan is a featured regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review online.

      He is the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council, a national leadership movement dedicated to transforming the way the donating public thinks about charity and change.

      Dan is the Chief Humanity officer for Advertising for Humanity, a bold agency of ideas committed to strengthening the fundraising power of some of America’s most innovative humanitarian organizations.

      Dan is a recipient of the Liberty Hill Foundation Creative Vision award, the Triangle Humanitarian of the Year award, the Albany State University International Citizen of the Year award, and the Seven Fund’s Morality of Profit Essay Prize.

      He has been written about in feature and cover stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, CNBC, American Public Media’s Marketplace, the TED Radio Hour, the BBC’s Business Matters, and on numerous NPR stations, among others.

      Dan lives in Massachusetts with his husband and their three children.

    Dan Pallotta Speaking Videos

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    Dan Pallotta's Speech Descriptions

    A leading voice for humanity, Dan Pallotta shares desperately important ideas on reshaping charities, the non-profit industry, and even the way we dream. He challenges students, philanthropists, nonprofit executives, institutional funders, donors, and anyone who cares about the great causes of our time to change the way we think about charities and the strategies needed to truly create the change we want to see in the world.

    Drawing from decades of experience as the non-profit sector’s chief innovator, Dan untangles deeply rooted sociological and legal problems that are hindering philanthropy’s ability to “pay off.”
    His stories and examples propose sensible solutions and a new understanding of what it takes to innovate while inspiring audiences to experiment with new ideas to make the present a better place.

      This is Dan's flagship talk about how the way we think about charity is dead wrong. The talk has been delivered in 38 states and eight countries to wide acclaim and standing ovations. Based on Dan's book, Uncharitable, the best-selling title in the history of Tufts University Press. The Stanford Social Innovation Review said it, "deserves to become the nonprofit sector's new manifesto."

      The Power of Purpose

      A counter-cultural take on innovation. Great innovation doesn't come from the desire to win. It come out of a deep desire to contribute to the lives of others. Where most talks on innovation offer a list of tactics and how-tos, this talk comes at the subject from an inspiring contextual perspective. People don't leave with a new list, but with epiphanies, and a new understanding of what it really takes to innovate.

      The Dream We Haven't Dared to Dream

      Based on Dan's 2016 TED Talk on being. It's about dreaming as boldly in the dimension of our being and our emotional lives as we do in science and technology. A powerful talk with a universally inspiring message for corporate, nonprofit, and college audiences. It teaches us all to dream different.

    All of Dan's talks are available to be delivered live via remote interactive video. It's the same powerful message, with better economy for smaller budgets. These presentations regularly get standing ovations. The talks transcend the distance and it's completely interactive, so your audience can ask questions and engage in conversation.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Dan Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Hats off to Dan for a truly spectacular talk. It’s really rare to see someone change the thinking of so many people in such a short period of time. Humor, vulnerability, perfectly-judged visuals, and laser-like logic combined to make one of the best talks we saw this year at TED 2013. I was in awe in the room, and even more in awe now, watching the massive public response to this one.”

    – Chris Anderson, Head of TED

    “Best speaker we have had.”
    – Teri Hansen, President/CEO, Gulf Coast Community Foundation

    “Star of the show. Everyone loved you.”
    – Former Congressman Steve Gunderson, President Council on Foundations

    “Dan’s message was incredibly well-received…he has a dynamic presentation style and content that resonates with anybody who understands the challenges facing those in the non-profit world.”

    – John Mallory, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs & Co.

    “My team and I were inspired by his ability to articulate innovation in a poignant and personal way…His approach and presentation were thought-provoking…we were honored to have him…”
    – Scott Seese, Chief Information Officer, eBay, inc.

    “So powerful. I can’t think of a better speaker or way to end the conference. I have told so many people about him and his speech in just 4 days. Thanks for lining him up!”

    – Guenevere Morr, Bigger Game Expo Attendee

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    Books by Dan Pallotta:

    Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential (Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives)

    Uncharitable goes where no other book on the nonprofit sector has dared to tread. Where other texts suggest ways to optimize performance inside the existing paradigm, Uncharitable suggests that the paradigm itself is the problem and calls into question our fundamental canons about charity. Author Dan Pallotta argues that society’s nonprofit ethic acts as a strict regulatory mechanism on the natural economic law. It creates an economic apartheid that denies the nonprofit sector critical tools and permissions that the for-profit sector is allowed to use without restraint (e.g., no risk-reward incentives, no profit, counterproductive limits on compensation, and moral objections to the use of donated dollars for anything other than program expenditures).

    These double-standards place the nonprofit sector at extreme disadvantage to the for profit sector on every level. While the for profit sector is permitted to use all the tools of capitalism to advance the sale of consumer goods, the nonprofit sector is prohibited from using any of them to fight hunger or disease. Capitalism is blamed for creating the inequities in our society, but charity is prohibited from using the tools of capitalism to rectify them.

    Ironically, this is all done in the name of charity, but it is a charity whose principal benefit flows to the for-profit sector and one that denies the nonprofit sector the tools and incentives that have built virtually everything of value in society. The very ethic we have cherished as the hallmark of our compassion is in fact what undermines it.

    This irrational system, Pallotta explains, has its roots in 400-year-old Puritan ethics that banished self-interest from the realm of charity. The ideology is policed today by watchdog agencies and the use of “efficiency” measures, which Pallotta argues are flawed, unjust, and should be abandoned. By declaring our independence from these obsolete ideas, Pallotta theorizes, we can dramatically accelerate progress on the most urgent social issues of our time. Pallotta has written an important, provocative, timely, and accessible book—a manifesto about equal economic rights for charity. Its greatest contribution may be to awaken society to the fact that they were so unequal in the first place.

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