Sunday, September 28, 2008

In Praise of Small and Mid-size Nonprofits - On the Side Streets of America

What will happen to Main street is a discussion the candidates for President and others talk about in the national fiscal crisis. This is my offer of praise for those who work in small to mid-size nonprofit groups, not on Main street but on the side streets of America. They and their clients, customers, patients and constituencies will feel more pain. We have been told for years to do more with less. The near future may be do less with even more less, if you know what I mean.

It appears to me that there are several reasons why we have small ($100,00 annual budget and/or staff of five) and mid-size ($5M annual budget or less): There are community needs that are best served by them. They are "on the ground" meeting priorities, goals and objectives that are not or cannot be met by larger nonprofits such as national groups, universities and others which have a different mission and vision. Many of these larger organizations provide support, training, technical assistance and evaluation to small and mid-size organizations. Much funding from Federal and state government, United Way, the Combined Federal Campaign, trust funds, foundations and corporations is aimed at small to mid-size nonprofits. There are probably many other reasons but I am not a researcher or historian.

I offer my praise and deep appreciation to the founders of small and mid-size organizations who have the passion, the mission, vision, the smarts and understand the pulse of their communities to tackle serious community problems and gaps in services, underpaid and understaffed and yet producing change and support in human lives daily. They are in inner cities, rural and farm towns, in suburbs.

I offer my deep appreciation for what they provide our society. They comfort the disturbed - they disturb the comfortable at the local level. They give with their personal values of dedication and hard work. They give with their education and experience. They want to be in those small to mid-sized organizations because of their moral isn't right and someone has to address that need now and on into the unforeseeable future. For so many employees and volunteers working with the small to mid-sized organizations, small pay and benefits, significant paper-work, hard issues - they can do no less. They have a spiritual sense of the rightness of being social workers, case managers, community organizers, lawyers, counselors, doctors, nurses, mothers, fathers, retirees, teachers, youth workers, respite support, mentors only in local small and mid-sized nonprofits

I offer praise to those who will spend a significant part of their lives working with broken families, mentally ill, people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, victims of domestic violence and rape, growing artists, actors and musicians, literacy, migrant camps, tenants rights, undocumented aliens, ex-offenders, new born, homeless, women, elderly, job training, single parents, working poor, displaced people, health, community advocacy, civil rights, people suffering from addiction, offer mentoring, save and protect animals, the environment and local or ethnic history and so much more. All are within locally-based small and mid-sized 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations with executive directors and boards and stake-holders and constituencies and clients, customers and patients. They are not on Wall Street. They are not even on Main street. They are on side streets, low rent areas close to those they serve.

They deserve the interest of donors, volunteers and funders. They deserve training, technical assistance and serious research, not at the expense of their missions but in the support and enhancement of their missions and results.

I can never offer thank you sufficiently for what you have given me and our neighbors and what I have learned at your knees.


Carol Kirshner said...

Bravo!!!! I am always amazed at the wonderful things small to medium-sized NPs can do in their corner of the world. The are often strapped for resources, yet some of the greatest works of compassion are done by these groups. Thank you for taking a moment to shine the light on the difficult work that these folks do.

Susan said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. That's why a started a blog for nonprofits in my local area. It is free service to the nonprofits who participate. I believe that these organizations need all the help they can get to raise awareness about the good work they do.

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