We are running this classic NPQ article today in preparation for a series of articles from the spring 2019 edition of Nonprofit Quarterly on the role of nonprofits in democracy. The idea that the strength and influence of nonprofits is centrally contained in their practice of democracy is too often lost—traded away for immediate gratification—but the cost for nonprofits and communities could not be higher.
Nonprofits whose work focuses on communities need to recognize that they are the keepers of knowledge and wisdom about community engagement and community development, the very skills most needed today. And community is the crucible of our major challenges—job loss, failing schools, home foreclosures, violence, fear—as well as where the answers for the future will be found.
During these troubled times, what lies in store for the nonprofit sector, and what do we need to do about it? Along with every family in America, the nonprofit sector is wondering about its future. Will we miraculously survive as we largely do today? Will we starve our organizations to the core or emerge from the current economic calamity mostly intact? Will we fight the prevailing downturn on behalf of our individual institutions and leave others to defend themselves, or instead will we join forces to shore up the sector as a whole? In the aftermath of this financial crisis, will we have real options and choices?