Nonprofit America is one of the least understood segments of national life, yet also one of the most crucial.
Author Lester Salamon, who pioneered the empirical study of the nonprofit sector in the United States, provides a wealth of new data to paint a compelling picture of a set of institutions being buffeted by a withering set of challenges, yet still finding ways to survive and prosper. These challenges, however, are posing enormous risks to the historic character and role of nonprofits.
Operating in an increasingly competitive environment in which traditional sources of government and philanthropic support are difficult to maintain, nonprofits have turned decisively to the market. In the process, however, they may be losing their raison d’être, sacrificing their most crucial missions, and risking loss of public understanding and support.
To remedy this situation, Salamon recommends a “renewal strategy” for the nation’s nonprofit sector that begins with a wider articulation and application of the sector’s “value proposition”—the attributes that continue to make it deserving of the special privileges and benefits it enjoys. Salamon’s pithy and accessible book is perfect for nonprofit boards, leaders of charitable foundations, government officials, and students of the nonprofit sector and of public policy, as well as anyone looking for guidance on how we go about dealing with public problems in America’s increasingly collaborative system of governance.
Lester M. Salamon is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University, where he is director of the Center for Civil Society Studies in the School of Public Health, was founding director of the Institute for Policy Studies, and serves as senior research professor at the SAISBologna Center. In addition, he is scientific director of the International Laboratory on Nonprofit Sector Studies at Moscow's Higher School of Economics. Acknowledged as one of the premier experts on the nonprofit sector in the United States and around the world, he has written a number of books, including Partners in Public Service (Johns Hopkins University Press), Rethinking Corporate Social Engagement (Kumarian), and Tools of Government (Oxford).