An excerpt from NPO Crossroads
America’s Voluntary Sector of the economy – more than one million charitable, philanthropic organizations employing more than 10 million professionals – is a vital contributor to, even determiner of, any national strategy seeking to “make America great again.” To best identify what is needed to ensure the Voluntary Sector adds the capacitates needed to sustain and improve America’s Quality of Life, this paper suggests the establishment of a National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability.
America’s economy is broadly organized into three “sectors,” including:
- The Public (government) Sector: those portions of America’s economic system that are controlled by national, state or provincial, and local governments;
- The Private Sector: businesses earning profits for owners; and,
- The Voluntary Sector (also called “Third Sector,” “Independent Sector”: charitable, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations whose purposes are to benefit and enrich society.
The Voluntary Sector is essential to any national strategy that seeks to make America great again.
The charitable-philanthropic/nonprofit sector is the most rapidly growing and changing economic and organizational domain in the world — a universe of voluntary associations and organizations representing civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action. The Voluntary Sector has more than doubled since publication in 1980 of the first handbook recognizing the new professional field of “nonprofit organization management” (Connors, 1980). It has become a universe of voluntary associations and organizations representing civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action.
America’s future quality of life will depend in large part on the ability of its more than one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations to collectively provide a myriad of human services ranging from arts and education, to health, advocacy and social services. Sustaining our national quality of life in the face of expanding needs and dwindling resources will require significant improvements by our voluntary organizations in mission fulfillment, performance, productivity, and human services delivery. These voluntary organizations must deliver a myriad of human services in the face of ever-changing operating environments, compounded by the ever-growing demands for social human services needed to sustain our nation’s overall quality of life, and further complicated by growing calls for improved Effectiveness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.
Achieving improvements in overall effectiveness and efficiency resulting in substantially improved performance, results and outcomes will be among the most pressing challenges facing C-P/NP’s as transformational organizations.
Improving performance and capacity while strengthening the Voluntary Sector core values requires answers to the following broad questions, including:
- What is the state of the “Quality of Life” Voluntary Sector?
- What will the Voluntary Sector be expected to provide in the way of human services in coming years if it is to meet the growing needs, and to ensure continued improvement in national Quality of Life?
- What will be required in the way of additional or expanded capacities for the Independent Sector to not only sustain overall quality human services delivery in the face of changing and challenging operating environments, but to improve overall excellence, organizational performance, and quality results?
Results and Outcomes
During an approximately one-year charter for the National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability, the following results and outcomes would be sought, including:
Gain Better Understandings regarding the:
- Overall contributions by the voluntary sector to national quality of life.
- Dynamic operating environments in which most voluntary organizations seek to survive and to fulfill their public purposes and missions.
- Nature and depths of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing voluntary organizations.
- Current relationships and/or partnerships between government and voluntary sector organizations.
Provide fact-based knowledge needed to:
- Ensure the ability of the voluntary sector to sustain current levels of human services delivery;
- Understand the scope and depth of challenges to needed capacity by sector organizations;
- Put into place the educational and professional development resources and opportunities needed to ensure improved organizational performance as measured by effectiveness, efficiency, and transformational organizational environments;
- Establish a government-voluntary sector relationship that represents an effective balance between policies that protect public purposes and missions, and that support the traditional charitable ethos that characterizes and inspires voluntary constituencies.
Broad milestones for the Commission would include:
- Creation of a national survey designed to provide a robust data base from which to develop answers to the basic research questions.
- Analysis of the survey to identify conditions, needs, trends, and understandings contributing to sound policy considerations.
- Hearings to provide the forum for public participation and input to the process.
- Compilation of the Commission’s Findings and Recommendations, followed by publication.
Dr. Connors has served as a lead and core faculty member for Norwich University's Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program since 2013. His doctoral studies focused on human services management, with a specialization in Management of Nonprofit Agencies. In 2014, Norwich University launched the nonprofit management concentration in the MPA program to which was driven by Dr. Connors Self-Renewing Management Model he introduced in 1997.
The full paper may be read on the NPO Crossroads website.