Nonprofits fight back – Scrutiny urged for privatization

WASHINGTON – Executives of 18 big nonprofits ranging from the Salvation Army to the Girl Scouts have issued a statement warning that the trend to hire private, for-profit companies to run social services programs could hurt people in need.

The battle to cut budgets and turn profits could damage service to the elderly, children, homeless, people with disabilities and families in need, says the statement, “Profitization of Human Services.”

But it also says that nonprofits have long provided and want to continue to provide such services – and are concerned that services will decline if businesses aren’t held to high standards of quality.

Many nonprofits run programs that are partially funded through contracts with public agencies.

“Adding a profit motive to human services that government and nonprofit organizations have provided over the years changes the landscape significantly,” Father Fred Kammer, president of Catholic Charities USA, says in a statement.

“We want to make sure that society’s priority with these services remains the people in need,” he says.

The nonprofit executives signing the statement want federal, state and local governments to adopt standards to guarantee that services offered by private for-profit companies equal the quality offered by nonprofits.

Businesses are entering the social services market because of potential financial rewards, the statement says, while government agencies are attracted to the capital and technology that private, for-profit companies might provide.

But traditional nonprofits also are developing new alliances and creating joint ventures to meet the government calls for more efficient and cost-effective ways of providing services.

“As newcomers to the social service community, a for-profit’s roots are shallow,” the statement says, and there are no guarantees the for-profit won’t abandon a community if profits are nonexistent.

In contrast, nonprofit organizations are accountable to voluntary boards of directors and to the communities and clients they serve, the statement says.

“Nonprofit agencies don’t abandon people in need when resources disappear or are unexpectedly cut,” the statement says. “They dig deeper, work harder, and strive to raise more charitable dollars to supplement limited public funds.”

The statement also was signed by the Alliance for Children and Families, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Camp Fire Boys and Girls, Child Welfare League of America Inc., Girls Inc., Goodwill Industries International, Lutheran Services in America, National Mental Health Association Inc., National Urban League Inc., United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Visiting Nurses Associations of America, YWCA of the USA and YMCA of the USA.

— Cindy Stiff

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