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Howard Husock of the Manhattan Institute has a smart new essay out published by the Philanthropy Roundtable entitled "Government and 'Scaling' Nonprofits: The Implications of An Expanded Federal Role." The essay examines the Obama administration's new Social Innovation Fund (SIF) on the heels of its first round of funding.

Husuck usefully analyzes the SIF in the context of efforts by previous presidential administrations to expand the federal government's role in funding nonprofits.  Thinking about the SIF in the context of the Bush administration's Offices of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, for example, shows that the SIF is a continuation of, rather than a departure from, the policies of previous administrations. The central purpose of the Social Innovation Fund, to bring exceptional social services to "scale," is examined. Husock asks the tough questions regarding "scaling" and political patronage that previous commentators of the SIF have tended to gloss over.

Husock's report makes a good companion piece to the Urban Institute's recently published "Human Service Nonprofits and Government Collaboration: Findings from the 2010 National Survey of Nonprofit and Government Contracting Grants." Like most reports from the Urban Institute, there is a wealth of eye-popping data on the so-called independent sector. Husock's essay and the Urban Institute's report give readers two valuable perspectives on the problems inherent in a government-financed nonprofit sector.  The inefficiencies of the government contracting process reported by the Urban Institute ought to be a cautionary tale for SIF enthusiasts.

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