Here, as with SYNERGY, is an expression that means nothing special yet has somehow become indispensable to any serious discussion of civic or philanthropic affairs. The phrase means exactly what it seems to mean: raising the value of something by doing a little work on it. This thoroughly pedestrian meaning has some limited use in economics, and particularly in the field of taxation, where foundations and nonprofits would presumably have no use for it.
Yet in the philanthropic world, VALUE ADDED has been invested with all the gravitas of fundamental mission and high charitable purpose. You won’t catch a foundation expressing a wish to do something valuable, or to be valuable to others. They all want to provide value added, or in briefer form, to add value.
Well, who wouldn’t? The alternative would be to work all day, then go home at night and face your spouse and children with the pathetic admission that you had not made anything better all day long. Perhaps there are people working in foundations today for whom that nightmare is a daily reality. We are not acquainted with them, thank God. But in any case, surely no one would aspire to that situation. And therefore, no one should consider it any great achievement to “add value,” much less to ” seek to add value.” It’s the very least that America can ask of her sons and daughters.
The issue is how much value you add, to what, and for how long. The expression VALUE ADDED is silent on all of that. It says nothing about degree or quality or wisdom, just mere increment. Perhaps translating the phrase into Greek would make it more expressive. On second thought, don’t even suggest it…