Crossing Nonprofit Borders

There has been much discussion recently about the crossing of borders. In the nonprofit world, we see another border that is being blurred: the distinction between different nonprofit segments.


We recently reported that giving to human services organizations has been flat compared with other sub-sectors and their growth spurts.


What can this mean? Are donors losing interest in helping the neediest?


I say no. It’s more of a confusion of “nonprofit borders.”


The National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) has solid classifications for nonprofit organizations and defines which one they fall into. If you take a deeper look at the sub-sectors, it might not be as black and white as defined.


Many organizations’ missions cross over distinct borders, and could be classified under a number of sub-sectors.


To give you an example, my faith congregation volunteers with Meals on Wheels. If I am interested in supporting this program through my congregation, my contribution will be attributed to the “religion” sub-sector, according to the NCCS, and not “human services,” which is where Meals on Wheels is categorized.


I believe that, for centuries, various faith communities and congregations that have always been the backbone of support for human service organizations like hospitals, hospices, homeless and hunger services, eldercare services, etc., face new challenges as they now compete with these very organizations for the same charitable donations.


So, it’s not that people today are any less caring… they are just surrounded by more opportunities to give.


For nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, this is a good reminder of the importance of working to involve and engage people with your specific organization’s mission.


The good news is, though the nonprofit borders may be blurred, no one really loses when it comes to helping others!