To the editor,
U.S. nonprofits have done an amazing job over the past century.
While many Americans remain skeptical about the ability of government agencies to tackle and solve problems at the local level, the many nonprofits that thrive on the energy and support of local citizens manage to promote the arts and sciences, find effective solutions in education, and meet real human need for food, clothing, addiction treatment, housing, and other basic needs.
There are of course examples of abuse by nonprofits, but they are largely self-correcting.
Exposure of misdeeds will cause those who depend on donor support to either become accountable or to fade and be replaced by other more accountable agencies.
Those that depend on government funding already face a host of regulations that are responses to past abuses.
High-profile scandals create more wary donors and funding agencies, and are thus more effective than broad government regulations could ever be.
Asking the government to impose broad regulations that could never address the unique variety of nonprofits that exist now [“Abramoff scandal should spur reform”, Philanthropy Journal, 10.18.06] would not end abuse; even Congress cannot seem to do that for itself.
But it could severely restrict and dampen the local ability to respond to emerging needs by creating burdens that would greatly increase the effort and money it takes to comply.
It is challenging enough to attract local citizens to participate as board members and accountability committees.
Putting them in the crosshairs of broad government regulations with potential financial and criminal penalties would further reduce the willingness to participate in local, voluntary and already tightly funded organizations.
— John Greholver, Santa Cruz County business coordinator, Salvation Army, Capitola Calif.