Every day brings another idea for the new administration—today, a group of ex-secretaries of state and defense suggested creating an office against genocide in the White House, certainly a creditable idea but not necessarily more entitled to immediate attention than the notion that President Obama should endorse the use of Esperanto. Still, rather than be left out of this season’s most fashionable parlor game, the Nonprofiteer offers her version of How Everything Would Be Much Better If People Would Only Run the Government My Way.
Here’s the idea:
This country’s most important work is done by amateurs—which is another way of saying that we have nonprofits, governed by volunteers, provide most of our social services, education, arts, and health care. If we’re going to continue to do this (and there are good social-capital reasons why we should), let’s give those amateurs the same tools the Small Business Administration gives entrepreneurs, namely expert advice and access to money.
Creating a “nonprofit business administration” would be a very low-cost way to capitalize on the spirit of service and volunteerism the President-elect created through his campaign and evokes repeatedly in his speeches. Volunteer effort is too valuable a resource to be wasted, as it is every time a nonprofit board has to reinvent the fundraising wheel. And the work of charities is too important to be stymied by a financial system which won’t give them access to working capital unless they beg for it—and sometimes not even then.
The Aspen Institute, a leading think tank on issues related to charity, recommended creating such an agency back in June, an idea which the Nonprofiteer dutifully reported as though she hadn’t had it herself in 1992.
Kelly Kleiman, who blogs as The Nonprofiteer, is a lawyer and freelance journalist whose reportage and essays about the arts, philanthropy and women’s issues have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and other dailies; in magazines including In These Times and Chicago Philanthropy; and on websites including Aislesay.com and Artscope.net.