Join Leslie Crutchfield for an in-depth discussion in this video The power of nonprofits, part of Nonprofit Fundamentals.
- "Never doubt that a small group "of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. "Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." The anthropologist Margaret Mead said this more than a half-century ago, and it still holds true today. Thoughtful leaders like you have set out to change the world and tackle our most pressing social and environmental problems. Whether the issue is hunger and malnutrition, poverty, environmental degradation, political corruption, or injustice, people like you have been joining together for millennia to make a difference in the world.
If you're thinking about launching or leading a nonprofit today, you will be in good company. In recent years there's been an explosion of interst in social entrepreneurship. Visionary new leaders have launched innovative organizations just in the past few decades. High-impact groups, like Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, and kiva.org have joined the ranks of more established nonprofits like The United Way, Sierra Club, and Salvation Army. The nonprofit section encompasses an incredibly rich array of groups working on all kinds of issues.
From hospitals, universities, and medical research groups to faith-based neighborhood service groups to homeless shelters and food banks to arts organizations, like symphonies and museums, to environmental advocates, the spectrum of causes is remarkable. Now some of the most renowned groups are global in scope, and they have really well recognized brands. Nonprofits like World Wildlife Fund, CARE, Doctors Without Borders, they work all over the world.
Other nonprofits are mainly national in scope. Feeding America: The Nation's Food Bank Network or the National MS Society and the Girl Scouts are some American examples. However, you may not realize that the vast majority of nonprofits are actually extremely local in focused and very modest in size. For instance, of the more than 1 million nonprofits in the U.S., about 80% are local groups. Neighborhood health clinics, job training groups, charter schools, shelters for homeless people or victims of domestic violence are all examples.
So whether you're ambitions are to effect big change across the entire planet or simply to create real impact right in your own backyard, this is an exciting time to be part of the nonprofit world. In fact, today's nonprofit sector is experiencing unprecedented growth and expanded opportunity. There's more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, and they account for more than a trillion dollars annually. It's a big sector, and it's growing fast.
It's also gaining in notoriety. In recent decades, the spotlight's been shifted to social entrepreneurs, a unique breed of nonprofit leader who seek to not only launch new organizations but aspire to achieve systems level change at national, continental, even global levels. Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus is probably the best known social entrepreneur today. He founded Grameen Bank, which provides loans to poor borrowers in Bangladesh and other countries who could not otherwise get credit, and he's helped spark the worldwide microcredit lending movement.
So that now today, through high-tech microlending groups, like kiva.org, for instance, it's just as easy to make a $25 loan to a seamstress in Kenya so she can buy a new sewing machine and ramp up her business and bootstrap herself out of poverty than it is to drop a few bucks in the collection plate at church on Sundays. And while the rise in interest in social entrepreneurship may be the "new" new thing, nonprofits have actually always played a unique and critical role in society.
As you launch and lead your nonprofit, you'll be operating in a very interesting grey space, existing somewhere between where government leaves off and the private sector stops short. Nonprofits and citizen-led groups play a vital role in the fabric of every nation on earth. So I invite you to dive in, band together with your small group of thoughtful citizens, and join the chorus of leaders worldwide who are striving to change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
- Shaping your vision and strategy
- Fundraising via grants, partnerships, and social media
- Hiring staff
- Working with volunteers
- Understanding board governance and nonprofit financial accounting
- Scaling the organization and impact
- Becoming a nonprofit leader