Geah Pressgrove and Richard D. Waters

What do the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Rifle Association of America, Harvard, Young Men's Christian Association, Chamber of Commerce, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Association of Realtors, and Feeding America have in common? While the missions and structures of these organizations are vastly different, each is part of the nonprofit sector. Also referred to as the third sector, voluntary sector, civil society or charitable sector, organizations in this sector operate outside of the government and for‐profit sectors.

Nonprofits play a unique and vital role in society, providing critical services, enriching cultural life, offering an outlet for political expression, and contributing to quality of life. As examples of the unique role of nonprofits, consider that most of the social movements that have taken place in the last century (e.g. civil rights, woman’s suffrage, antislavery) all operated through this sector. In America, over 90% of orchestras and operas, as well as over half of the nation’s hospitals are part of the nonprofit sector (Salamon, 2015). Further, nonprofit organizations provide individuals with the venues to act on matters that concern them in coordination with other like‐minded individuals. The significance of this last point is perhaps best illustrated by a report from the Corporation for National Community Service which found that over a quarter of Americans (62.8 million) volunteer an ...

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