Strong nonprofits essential for delivering change

To the editor,

In his recent article, “Challenges for Nonprofit Congress [04.17.06], Rick Cohen reminds us that “nonprofits are intermediaries for government funders and charitable donors for the delivery of resources into the hands of families and communities whose needs merit response and know what is needed.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Additionally, nonprofits have always been a primary vehicle – “key intermediary” – for the effective functioning of America’s dynamic democracy.

Witness the recent march for immigrant rights in Washington, D.C., and in communities across the country.

Nonprofit organizations, such as the National Capital Immigration Coalition, CASA of Maryland and the New America Opportunity Campaign mobilized thousands of individuals.

This is one recent example of the nonprofit sector at its best — organizing, mobilizing and tapping the courage of individuals to take a stand.

We also agree with Cohen that strengthening the nonprofit sector for its own sake is not a worthy cause and that “what’s needed is a political mobilization not just of nonprofits…but a mobilization of the people who look to, in theory sometimes control, and function as constituents of the nonprofit sector.”

However – and this is where our opinions diverge – we believe that strong nonprofits are essential to the “delivery” of the change that Cohen seeks.

Unless they come together, focus and strengthen their own capacity to organize, manage, lead and effectively advocate for their constituents and causes, charitable organizations will never be effective facilitators of systemic change.

The Nonprofit Congress is a grassroots movement to amplify the voice of nonprofits for political power and encourage more charitable organizations to become effective advocates for their causes and constituents.

A goal of the Nonprofit Congress is to encourage and support the important advocacy role that charitable organizations play in our society and reinforce their work through more coordinated action.

While it may not be easy, doing this work and finding common ground within the sector is essential. Nonprofits are most effective when we recognize our common challenges and opportunities and work in broad coalition.

Without this focus on collaboration, we are left with every charitable group pressing for its own tiny share of the pie.

The Nonprofit Congress seeks to expand the leadership role of nonprofits in civic life.

This is an inclusive movement for organizations and individuals that recognize the vital contribution that nonprofits make to our nation.

We encourage readers to provide input, attend or host a Town Hall meeting in your local community, and/or apply to represent your state as a delegate at the national meeting in October.

For information, please visit

— Audrey R. Alvarado, executive director, National Council of Nonprofit Associations, Washington, D.C.

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