Growing Nonprofits Consider Increased Government Involvement

As the role of nonprofits in America grows, many of the organizations are lobbying for increased, revamped federal support. In its current form, the government offers no specialized agency catering to the interests of nonprofit organizations. Now, some nonprofit leaders like Steve Gunderson of the Council on Foundations and Diana Aviv of Independent Sector are calling for such a government agency.

Despite the considerable size of the nonprofit sector, its rapid growth, and its charge to fix many of society’s problems, “nonprofit groups often work in isolation and have virtually no strategic coordination with government,” according to Philip Rucker’s article “Some Nonprofits Push for Increased Federal Involvement” in the Washington Post (August 19, 2008). Robert Egger, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, claims that the sector “is the only industry of this size and scope that doesn’t have a real voice in this process.” Consider some of the statistics: the number of nonprofits grew “27 percent from 1994 to 2004, and their revenues and assets more than doubled” (Federal Times, February 12, 2008); “one in 10 U.S. workers [are] employed by [nonprofit] organizations and Americans [are] giving upwards of $300 billion a year to charities” (Washington Post, August 19, 2008).

Egger recently stated that a common problem among nonprofits with similar goals and services is that they are almost always competing for funding; no alternative model for coalescence or partnership is currently available. The proposed government agency would ideally aid in the expansion and implementation of community-based initiatives to bring together nonprofits and would also create a corps of service volunteers.

Advocates of the nonprofit agency often liken it to the Small Business Administration (SBA), a federally created independent agency offering assistance to small businesses. This comparison, however, is not without its skeptics; Gary R. Snyder of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy blog writes that the SBA has been managed inefficiently, taken out too many loans, and has been plagued with fraud. He suggests that the nonprofits should not associate with the SBA and that the formation of a comparable organization might lead to more harm than good. Additionally, there are others who believe increased government involvement in charities is a tenuous road to travel, and may lead to an overstepping of authority.

Read Rucker’s article here.

– Taleen Alexander