Welcome to the Summer 2005 issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly. This issue was to have been our annual philanthropy edition, but as we considered the challenges of the current economic and political climate, that topic seemed a bit inadequate. In fact, the impact of philanthropic trends pales in the shadow of the larger economic and political trends in this country. These trends, of course, are connected to and generative of larger worldwide trends. In short, despite the fact that the number of organizations in our sector continues to increase, as does the amount of money we control, the wealth gap and the inequities that flow from that have also increased. Is this success? Even if only a portion of these organizations address poverty directly, aren’t we maybe missing some large boat that we are all supposed to be in together?
So, instead of simply looking at philanthropy, we have taken a cut more broadly at the nonprofit economy. No, this is not the usual “Guess how much we’re worth!” type of stuff, trying to prove the value of the nonprofit sector (writ large) through how much cash we control. Instead, this issue looks at the choices we have in developing our financing systems and toward what end we spend or hoard the finances we do have. This is a timely discussion as we maneuver through a political environment that emphasizes the “ownership” society.
This issue leads off with Jon Pratt’s article on the nonprofit economy and looks at the economic factors affecting nonprofits now. An analysis by Gar Alperovitz follows, which urges nonprofits to focus energy on altering the economic trends that favor private capital over community capital by creating structures of co-ownership at the state and local levels. These structures have been experimented with, but he suggests that our work as nonprofits must focus more acutely on these efforts if we are to attend properly to the economic health of our communities.
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But the Nonprofit Quarterly knows that you need immediate, practical tips as well. We have two articles featuring nonprofits who tell their own stories of weathering the current turbulent environment. “The Enduring Connection: Individual Donors and Nonprofit Organizations,” on grassroots fundraising, contains a wealth of wise ideas you can put to use. And don’t miss our “Straw to Gold” update for the continuing saga of five organizations we have followed over the past three years. There is both inspiration and heartbreak in these stories.
Two new departments debut in this issue: “The Nonprofit Ethicist” (page 6) and the “Mythbuster” (page 10). We hope you enjoy them. A favorite, however, among several of us who are fans of Alfred Hitchcock and Jim Thompson, is NPQ’s first-ever attempt at “Nonprofit Noir,” to be found on the back page. Let us know what you think!