Are nonprofits only “Safety Nets?” More on Passion & Purpose
I’m continuing to digest the report Passion & Purpose issued this month by The Boston Foundation – the report analyzes the financial health of nonprofits in Massachusetts and makes a series of recommendations for the sector.
As I mentioned in my first post, the report lumps all nonprofits with budgets above $250,000 and below $50 million into one category that the authors call “Safety Nets.”
I have a very hard time reducing the performing arts, historical societies, art museums, conservation, environmental education, youth development, international development, philanthropy, peace and justice, women’s rights, and civil rights, to name a few, to the descriptor “Safety Net.” To me, this characterization grossly diminishes the societal benefit that these types of organizations provide.
While the report defines “safety net” to include the “quality of life” enhancing contributions of this group, the shorthand of “safety net” for this category obliterates the enormous community building and life enhancing contributions of this sector. Not only that, but when we think about the safety net, we usually assume that the word applies to emergency services applicable only to the most vulnerable among us and thus doesn’t touch the daily lives of the rest of us…
While many of the social service organizations in this category (homeless shelters, food banks, group homes, immigrant and refugee agencies, etc) do provide a societal safety net, many do not limit their vision to simply “rescuing” the most in need as the name implies. Thank goodness that so many of these organizations see their work as helping to aid and give voice to the value and contributions that those living on the margin can and do add to our society.
It will be a sorry day if this term comes into common use to describe a sector that is so vast and so essential to the fabric of all of our lives.