Nonprofit Leaders Call for Greater Government Involvement in Charitable Sector

Social entrepreneurs are calling for a realignment of the way the federal government and nonprofits work together to maximize the impact of American generosity, the Washington Post reports.

In anticipation of a new presidential administration, some nonprofit leaders are calling for a White House office or an agency to match nonprofit programs with government priorities, help successful community-based initiatives grow, and organize a corps of service volunteers. Leaders of efforts such as the V3 Campaign and America Forward argue that nonprofits, which employ approximately one tenth of all U.S. workers, are relied on to fix many of society's problems, though they often work in isolation and have virtually no strategic coordination with government.

A few state governments, including California and Michigan, already have offices that serve as liaisons with nonprofits and service volunteers, while some nonprofit leaders consider the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives a model. Citing concerns about the separation of church and state, however, others argue that the Small Business Administration is a more appropriate model for an agency that could help nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, with basic needs such as navigating tax laws and applying for grants.

Such proposals have drawn skepticism from philanthropists who pride themselves on their autonomy and are leery of government oversight. Indeed, "there are a lot of people in this sector who will get nervous about the federal government becoming too engaged in philanthropy," said Steve Gunderson, president of the Council on Foundations.

Yet, others are convinced that problems of poverty, climate change, and limited access to quality health care and education are too widespread that a more coordinated approach is needed. Jane Wales, a veteran of the Carter and Clinton administrations and founder of the Global Philanthropy Forum, said government would be smart to leverage the "core capacities" of the nonprofit and corporate worlds. "Look at what's in the inbox of the next president," said Wales. "These are crises that cannot be solved by the public sector alone."

Philip Rucker. "Some Nonprofits Push for Increased Federal Involvement." Washington Post 08/19/2008.