By Robert E.L. Egger
The nonprofit sector has long served our nation with distinction, providing frontline services for artistic, cultural, spiritual, social and environmental needs.
Yet, despite the value that the over 1.5 million nonprofits add to our communities and the contributions we make to the economy, generating 10 percent of the gross national product, the majority of us operate in communities where there is no consistent media coverage of our work, save for seasonal stories or sensational scandals.
We strive to create momentum and are under constant pressure to create measurable outcomes, yet many public and private funders view even modest administrative overhead as a negative.
Subsequently, while we employ one in 11 people in the U.S. workforce, few of our organizations have any retirement plans for their leaders, and fewer still can offer health insurance, or even “living wages” to their front-line employees.
And while these issues are daunting, we have it in our collective power to counter these trends and usher in a more positive and productive era — if we band together around areas of shared interest and develop a voice for our sector, our issues and the communities we serve.
It is in this spirit of unity, and with steadfast admiration for the hundreds of thousands of small, community-based organizations that make up 80 percent of our sector that we are organizing a first-of-its-kind national gathering of nonprofits.
The Nonprofit Congress will be held in Washington, D.C., on October 15-18, 2006. Its goals are to:
* Strengthen the resolve and resources of nonprofit leaders to engage in public policy and ensure that nonprofits are instrumental in taking on roles that enhance the democratic process in the United States.
* Invigorate the passion and commitment of the current generation of nonprofit executives, while enlisting and making room for a new generation of nonprofit leaders.
* Empower local, state, and national organizations to speak for nonprofit organizations and advocate at all levels of society.
* Communicate a nonprofit agenda to the country and to our elected leaders and invite those seeking the presidency in 2008 to share their views on the sector and their vision for our country.
We have the opportunity and also the obligation to work for things that are bigger than our individual programs and causes.
It will not be easy, but with a sector unified around common areas of interest, the road ahead can be made smoother and more productive for all.
Please consider joining the ongoing effort to harness our sectors energy and ideas by visiting our website to register and/or volunteer to be part of the team that is building this event
Robert L.E. Egger is president and founder of DC Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C., and a member of the steering committee for The Nonprofit Congress.