• Terry Fernsler

    Inundated by the moral underpinnings of neoliberalism–individual liberty, competition, individual responsibility–it can be difficult for nonprofit to adjust their attitudes about why they exist. The realization that the most important resource of nonprofit organizations (components of civil society) is human capital, not financial capital, is a first step. This understanding leads directly to an invitation to participation.

    Nonprofit organizations, or their predecessors, voluntary associations, are caretakers of the commons, or at least of a slice of the commons. Neoloiberal attitudes caused many nonprofits to lose sight of that. This did not occur overnight, and re-prioritizing our fundamental values will take time. If our organizations are truly mission driven, if we truly want to improve social conditions, then we must be willing to question the underlying assumptions of our systems, and our role within these systems. What steps will help?

  • Ruth McCambridge

    Wow Terry, great observations. I would love for others to comment on this.

  • Terry Fernsler

    Thank you Ruth, and so would I like to see responses. They could very well supplement my studies in nonprofit leadership studies I will be beginning this fall at James Madison University. Now that the holiday weekend is over, perhaps we could get some responses? Regardless, I hope to confer with you and Rick Cohen as my studies progress.

  • It is true that philanthropy and nonprofit organizations improve the lives of people and their communities
    and invigorate our democratic society. However, philanthropic/nonprofit sector also subvert democracy (neither are accountable to the public) when viewed/used as a replacement for the responsibility of government for assuring the common good.

    This is true because the common good is only attainable when a social democratic public sector can
    substantially reduce the inherent class, race, and gender inequities in capitalism. The use of charitable giving and volunteerism as a “private sector alternative” to social democratic government has been one of the rationales for a third sector since the early in the 20th century when the first large foundations were established with great public opposition to them.

    More private power,less public purpose – it’s always been an American dream.

    For a thorough discussion of this question, see Peter Dobkin Hall, “A Historical Overview,” in The Nonprofit Sector, edited by Walter W. Powell. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.

    • Sharon Charters

      this is so true

  • Nina Eliasoph

    This is fantastic! Thank you, Cynthia!