There is a national day for just about everything. So, sandwiched between National Tell a Joke Day and National Fajita Day is an observance that merits being a forerunner of all days. August 17th is National Non-Profit Day. While many more people in our industry are familiar with National Philanthropy Day, few know about National Non-Profit Day. It shouldn’t be that way.
On that day, do something meaningful like thanking nonprofit staff members or volunteers who are all around us. But, also recognize that nonprofits deserve our respect, admiration, and support 365 days a year.
We can sum up the sentiment to this simple but powerful truth: when non-profits do well, we all do well. There is no part of the quality of life they don’t enrich and make better. They embody the best spirit and values of our nation. During the pandemic, we have seen nonprofits increase the volume and do even more to help those struggling.
Why celebrate on August 17th? Because that’s the date the Tariff Act of 1894 became law. It imposed the first federal income tax on corporations, which included exemptions for non-profits and charitable institutions.
My perspective on the subject is personal. For the better part of the last three decades, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of working in the non-profit world. I’ve held advancement positions and raised money for higher education institutions. It was instructive, challenging, and enormously fulfilling. Then in 2018, I decided to combine two passions. I wanted to teach the art and science of fundraising with the desire to venture out on my own by launching Eskin Fundraising Training.
After conducting more than 150 workshops and webinars and working with hundreds of board members, volunteers, and staff from a broad cross-section of organizations, my appreciation and admiration for the non-profit sector have only deepened. I am inspired by the men and women who have selfless devotion in their unwavering commitment to improving the lot of others. Toiling away in relative obscurity, they’re genuine unsung heroes.
Though voluntary organizations endorsed by private contributions have existed in the U.S. since the mid-eighteenth century, they have only recently become an omnipresent part of American society. As recently as 1940, there were only 12,500 secular charitable tax-exempt organizations. Today, there are more than 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the nation. This stat includes all 501(c) designations such as churches, cultural centers, food banks, and disaster relief organizations. There are more than 100,000 non-profits in Texas alone.
Their story is compelling. The sector represents 10 percent of the American workforce or about 12 million jobs making it the third largest force in the U.S., behind retail and manufacturing.
You won’t get rich working for a non-profit, but the level of job satisfaction is much higher than among American workers. A survey by Classy, creator of online fundraising software for non-profits, reveals that 84% of non-profit employees are satisfied in their current roles at their organizations. Those involved with their organization’s fundraising efforts are especially satisfied, with 92% of this cohort expressing contentment. This contrasts with just 51% of all employees reporting that they were satisfied with their jobs.
There are so many more people who toil for non-profits. However, they’re just not paid. America is blessed with a gigantic army of dedicated volunteers. According to data released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 77.4 million Americans, or 30 percent of the adult population, give 6.7 billion hours of volunteer service worth $167 billion.
These volunteers set an amazing example. As champions of good causes whose time and resources are already stretched, they find ways to give more time and more money to better the lives of others. And they do so with smiles on their faces. The secret is that they are energized, not drained, by their labors of love.
Fundraisers have even more reason to love volunteers. Gifts of time, talent, and treasure go hand-in-hand. Volunteering and Civic Life in America research reveals that nearly twice the number (80%) of volunteers donate to charity as people who don’t volunteer (40%).
By the way, the term “nonprofit” is a bit of a misnomer. Nonprofits can make a profit and should try to have some positive revenue to build a reserve fund to ensure sustainability. The key difference between nonprofits and for-profits is that a nonprofit organization cannot distribute its profits to any private individual. However, nonprofits may pay reasonable compensation to those providing services.
Whether we like it or not, the stark reality is that it is likely that the government’s role and grant funding in meeting escalating human service needs will continue to shrink. It will be up to nonprofits to fill gaps to ensure that people in need and pressing issues aren’t abandoned.
I can’t wait for each new day to partner with nonprofit staff and volunteers to develop more resources so that they can extend the impact of their noble missions. Their passion for their respective causes gives them an essential tool to be effective fundraisers. Armed with the Jeffersonian virtues of a “knowing head and an honest heart,” they can effectively tell their stories, nurture relationships, and ask for and obtain gifts.
Non-profits are all around us and improving the world through advances in education, healthcare, arts and culture, economic development, animal welfare, human services, seniors, children, and other vital areas. They remind us that more is possible and that we can take matters into our own hands and make the world a better place to live, one person and one community at a time. If you’re not already contributing time and money to a nonprofit, there couldn’t be a better time than August 17th to add your voice to the non-profit movement and magnify good works.
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