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The Business of the Civil Society Sector

  • Apr 2, 2012
  • : National Policy

According to Stephen Jordan executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center, “In the last 30 years, the number of non-profits has grown exponentially. There were 250,000 registered with the IRS in 1980. There are 1.5 million registered with the IRS today. But the rate of giving hasn’t increased that much, so the groups are competing for a pie that isn’t growing that quickly.”  Not just strapped for cash, non-profits are also in need of executives, skilled labor, and a solid business plan. All the while, they must remain relevant to the needs of the communities they serve.

Faced with a lean operating environment and enormous challenges, nonprofits are encouraged more than ever to collaborate with other organizations, with business partners, and government agencies.

In 2008, Sagamore Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and Office Depot Foundation teamed up to publish a white paper called The Business of the Civil Society Sector: Taking Care of Community. The white paper was written to address the most pressing issues in the nonprofit sector discussed during Weekend in Boca II. (Read the recap of Weekend in Boca V)

Among some of the recommendations include: 

  • Strengthening cross-sector communication, coordination and collaboration.
  • Developing mapping capabilities that give individual organizations more visibility about how their individual activities fit into the community’s development as a whole.
  • Conducting cluster studies or system integration studies that help different sectors understand how their actions affect other sectors and vice versa.
  • The creation of networks and coalitions that help communities address multiple issues through better coordination and the sharpening of understanding about the division of labor.

This report is one of the many collaborative efforts between Sagamore Institute, the U.S. Business Civic Leadership Center, and Office Depot Foundation—a triumvirate that represents a successful government, business and nonprofit partnership that leverages key strengths and resources to improve civil society as a whole. 

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