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Nonprofits must think big and act boldly

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By Todd Cohen

Nonprofits collectively act like an 800-pound weakling.

While it can lead the charge for social change, the sector fears or is blind to its strength and, at the slightest criticism or whiff of it, assumes the fetal position.

The Nonprofit Congress this month could have set a national civic agenda and launched a campaign to push for it.

Instead, after 117 “town hall” meetings throughout the U.S., and two days of the congress, its 380 delegates simply wrote a job description, concluding the sector’s top priorities are organizational effectiveness, public awareness and support, and advocacy and grassroots community activities.

As Ruth McCambridge of The Nonprofit Quarterly reports, strong support emerged for a “living wage” in America, yet the delegates failed to make it or any other social cause a priority.

Yet organizers touted the congress as a major step for nonprofits.

Nonprofits typically are grassroots groups that exist to address needs and serve people.

But, dependent on funding from government, corporations and foundations, nonprofits pander to their funders’ priorities.

They also fail to unleash their constituents’ collective power, an asset that truly could make a difference in America.

Nonprofits need vision, courage and the will to lead.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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