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Like the arteries of a living organism, nonprofit organizations carry a life force that has long been a centerpiece of American culture-a faith in the capacity of individual action to improve the quality of human life. They embody two seemingly contradictory impulses at the heart of American character: a deep-seated commitment to freedom and individual...
Like the arteries of a living organism, nonprofit organizations carry a life force that has long been a centerpiece of American culture-a faith in the capacity of individual action to improve the quality of human life. They embody two seemingly contradictory impulses at the heart of American character: a deep-seated commitment to freedom and individual initiative and an equally fundamental realization that people live in communities and consequently have responsibilities that extend beyond themselves. Uniquely among American institutions, those in the nonprofit sector blend these competing impulses, creating a special class of entities dedicated to mobilizing private initiative for the common good. While they are celebrated as a fundamental part of the American heritage, nonprofit organizations have recently confronted an extraordinary range of challenges-significant demographic shifts, fundamental changes in public policy and public attitudes, new commercial impulses, massive technological developments, and changes in lifestyle. Although nonprofit America has responded with creativity to many of these challenges, the responses have pulled the sector in directions that are, at best, poorly understood and, at worst, corrosive of its special character and role. But little headway has been made in tracking these developments systematically, in assessing their impact, and in getting the results into the hands of nonprofit practitioners, policymakers, the press, and the public at large. This book is intended to fill this gap, to offer an overview of the state of America's nonprofit sector, and to identify the changes that might be needed to promote its long-term health. To do so, it assembles a set of original essays prepared by leading authorities on key components of the American nonprofit scene and on the key trends affecting their evolution. The result is the first integrated account of a set of institutions that we have long taken for granted, but that Alexis de Tocqueville recognized more than 175 years ago to be "more deserving of our attention" than any other part of the American experiment.
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