April 21, 2010; Commercial Appeal | Nonprofit Quarterly has many friends and readers in Memphis, so we were interested to see these comments from Mayor Wharton about his expectations for the nonprofit sector. This brief article reports that the Mayor is looking for nonprofits to think in terms of partnerships aiming to solve “big picture” issues.
He cited the “Books from Birth” program as an example of what he is looking for: according to the Appeal, “While the program would help the literacy rate . . . it would also help children be ready to learn more quickly, which would lead to better self-esteem and then to more healthy lifestyles overall. That fact helped . . . get health insurers Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee and AmeriChoice on board, which provided for the sustainability of the program.”
While he called for groups to “bond together” to solve broader problems, he also quipped that he hoped that nonprofits would “work themselves out of a job.” Let’s hope he didn’t overlook the importance of the nonprofit sector as more than a service provider, but as a crucial component of the nation’s civil society. And he also hopefully didn’t forget, as he was reminded by a nonprofit consultant who heard his speech, that nonprofits are a major part of the economy of Memphis—and as hospitals, universities, and more, a “part of the permanent landscape.”—Rick Cohen