Why Does This Sector Matter?
The third sector has been called the “keystone of a caring society,”9 as contrasted with the for-profit and government sectors, which might not be so caring. The nonprofit/NGO sector is essential for the “spirit and character of our society and for the freedom and fulfillment of each of us.”10 So says Waldemar A. Nielsen in his marvelous paean to the sector. The third sector is comprised of a myriad of organizations large and small, focused on education and human services, arts and culture, public society/benefit and health, and more. The third sector is essential to a healthy community.
Nielsen describes the sector as doing three key things:
1. Delivering a wide range of services to people—often bridging the gap between government investment and actual community needs.
2. Strengthening the other two sectors—the for-profit marketplace and government—often producing corrective and compensatory effects.
3. Serving as a humanizing force—offering people an opportunity to give. (Nielsen uses the phrase “an outlet for the nearly universal impulse to altruism.”11)
More than two decades ago, Nielsen ended his remarks with the following: “The Third Sector is now in serious difficulty—under simultaneous assault by inflation, government regulation and competition and the negative effects of some misbegotten tax policies. [The Third Sector’s] own mismanagement of its affairs is another worrisome problem. To preserve its freedom and vitality will require a long ...