A World Without Nonprofits?


Today, August 17, is National Nonprofit Day here in the United States.

For those who take a moment to observe it, it is a day to celebrate the organizations and people (volunteers especially!) who work to make a difference. 

Although, this national day of observance is specific to the U.S., the collective work of nonprofits is far-reaching, often with global ramifications. 

In recent years, a handful of large nonprofits in the U.S. have soured the reputations of nonprofits, making people skeptical about how much good they truly do. 

Whether it’s hearing about some pastor’s outlandish salary (yes! Churches and other places of worship are nonprofits too), or seeing published financial statements that reveal only a minuscule amount of each dollar in donations goes toward actual programming while the rest goes towards administrative costs (a.k.a the CEO’s preposterous salary) and “overhead”, nonprofits as a sector can hardly be considered uncorrupted. 

Even so, there is clear evidence that resources can be even more effective in the service of those in need when they are combined and managed by those who are knowledgeable about a problem and experienced in solving it. 

So imagine, a world without nonprofits. What would that even look like? 

As of 2016, there were over 1.5 million nonprofits operating in the United States alone. (Source)

If we just imagined a nation without nonprofits, then we would have to envision an America without public schools. A nation with no formal places of worship.

There would be no public hospitals. No labor unions. No chambers of commerce or professional associations. There would be no museums and no orchestras. There would be no service or expressive organizations. 

America’s third largest workforce would be nonexistent. At least 11.9 million more people would be unemployed. (Source)

In a world without nonprofits 7.4% of the world’s workforce and more than 10% of the workforce in at least 5 other countries would be without jobs. (Source)

There would be no people with an intimate local knowledge of their community.

The people who currently belong to small, local organizations and who have a thorough understanding of the needs (or at least one need) of their community and the best ways to meet them (it) would have no place in society.

There would be no organized channel for people with a specific expertise to share it with those who need it most and yet cannot afford it.

Who would work on solving the global problems of poverty and pollution? Of deforestation and resource depletion? Of equal human rights and quality education for all?
Nonprofits are needed. They make the world go round. 

They raise awareness about issues that would otherwise go unnoticed and unresolved.

Nonprofits advocate on behalf of the people they serve. People whose voices would otherwise go unheard.

Service organizations provide aid and assistance to groups and populations that would otherwise go unseen. 

Expressive organizations (think sports and the arts) offer channels and outlets for people to develop abilities and talents that would otherwise go untapped. 

In a world without nonprofits, there would be no parks, no reserves, and no community gardens.

People who have seen loved ones suffer with a disease could not anticipate one day finding a cure.

Those who are marginalized, overlooked, and/or deep in poverty’s grasp could not look forward to change.

In short, a world without nonprofits world mean a world without hope.