Nonprofits for “them” or for all of us?

Who benefits from the nonprofit sector? Is it the poor, the hungry, the sick, the disenfranchised? Yes. And it is the wealthy, healthy, and wise! Along with government agencies, healthcare providers, grocery shoppers, opera fans, and scientists.

Nonprofits for “them” or for all of us?The impact of the nonprofit sector can be felt in all aspects of our individual and collective lives. We may not always see that impact, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Direct services, advocacy, education, research, and performing arts are but a few of the types of organizations with impact that rolls, ripples and roars across our country and beyond our borders.

Think about it: scholarships for college and post-graduate study support the men and women who become teachers, administrators, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and more. Gifts to a new cancer center support patients now and in the future – maybe your sister or husband. Supporting the food bank keeps people fed, helping children to grow and seniors to remain independent.

It’s not just individuals who benefit from nonprofits, government agencies benefit too. When agencies subcontract with nonprofits, or make grants to nonprofits, they are supporting organizations that have the relationships, agility, and expertise to serve and research in ways that government just can’t. The responsibilities of our state and local governments are often “subcontracted” to nonprofits that provide human services such as childcare, healthcare, and housing.

Nonprofits support changes in public policy that benefit millions through their advocacy and educational work. Think about the civil rights movement, the disability rights movement, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights movements and more. All have created transformational change.

The same is true of research and development. It is not only private enterprise that is developing new solutions. Medical breakthroughs have been supported and funded by the American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and let us not forget St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Nonprofits are first-responders helping all of us when disaster strikes. Think hurricanes, local fires, famine, floods, and school shootings. Individual donations, government grants, and corporate contributions support organizations such as the Red Cross, Save the Children, Rebuilding Together, and Habitat for Humanity who can respond quickly.

Care for our veterans is provided through a diversity of organizations – not just the Veterans Administration. Local and national nonprofits – and committed volunteers – serve those who have served on our behalf.

Businesses and corporations benefit from the work of nonprofit training centers, pipeline programs, research centers, think tanks, and institutions of higher education. As a country we want to sustain national growth in science, technology, international trade, and the rebuilding of our infrastructure. Investments in colleges and universities – and the development of private-public partnerships – help make all these possible.

All of us benefit from nonprofits large and small. We may not always be aware of that impact, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw believe in the value of the nonprofit sector. Learn more at

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