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The History Of Nonprofit Organizations In America

1401 words - 6 pages

The nonprofit sector in America is a reflection some of the foundational values that brought our nation into existence. Fundamentals, such as the idea that people can govern themselves and the belief that people should have the opportunity to make a difference by joining a like-minded group, have made America and its nonprofit sector what it is today. The American "civil society" is one that has been produced through generations of experiments with government policy, nonprofit organizations, private partnerships, and individuals who have asserted ideas and values. The future of the nonprofit sector will continue to be experimental in many ways. However, the increase of professional studies in nonprofit management and the greater expectation of its role in society is causing executives to look to more scientific methods of management.

Kevin C. Robbins (2006) says modern organizations can trace their origin to the philanthropists who feel a sense of moral or spiritual obligation to a cause (p.13). It is at the basis of human relationships and civilization to care for the needs of others, and has been for centuries. Nearly every religion emphasizes in some way the spiritual and moral responsibility of individuals to contribute to others. Ancient Jews saw charitable giving as essential and imperative (Robbins 2006). It was expected that they participate in almsgiving for the poor, widows, and orphans. The Roman Empire contributed to our modern view of philanthropy, also. They had a sense of obligation to civilization to formalize and regulate philanthropy (Robbins 2006, p.17) Christianity has also greatly influenced the motives of philanthropy worldwide by encouraging the practice of self-sacrifice for the good of others in need.
The basic foundation of America’s current social welfare system was set during the New Deal era of the 1930s (Salamon 1999, p. 57). Before the Great Depression of the thirties, the popular opinion was that the federal government should not be heavily involved in providing social welfare. However, the urbanization and industrialization of the early twentieth century, as well as the economic pressure of the 1930s, proved to be more than what state and local governments or private organizations could provide for. These pressures gave way for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lead America into the New Deal. This included the creation of the U.S. Social Security Program, unemployment assistance, and needs-tested assistance (Salamon 1999, p.58). Roosevelt’s New Deal still left limited coverage, limited funding, and left much of the delivery of social service to state and local governments. Even with all the changes that have occurred in federal programs and policy over the years, Salamon shows that combined state and local governments continued to nearly match the amount of federal spending from 1950 through 1994 (p.59). This again reflects the tension and nature of the American system, which was intended to lean on the...

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