The Nonprofit News

Britain's Diana made news by sticking with six charitable organizations (after her divorce from Prince Charles) while exiting 93.

President Clinton made news by calling a Philadelphia summit (April 27-29) to sign up volunteers to help meet America's needs.

Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser of New York made news by giving Harvard University $10 million to start a center for the study of the "nonprofit sector." It will be based at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, many of whose graduates (now more than a third) work in nonprofit organizations.

We could add news from:

* Argentina, where nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations are moving forward after the days of repression when their founders risked government crackdown.

* Slovakia, where the Service Center for the Third Sector puts on conferences, brings out the NONPROFIT monthly newsletter, and helps map activities in 10 countries for the Pan European Research Study on Volunteerism in Europe.

* England and Wales, where the Charity Commission reports 750 charities were added to its register last month, making a total of 182,000.

In brief, nonprofits are on the upswing all over the world. They are helping to provide or at least be the catalyst for human services formerly provided by government welfare. They are working to foster religion, protect rights, extend education, support the arts and sciences, preserve land, air, and water.

The rise of foundations and other groups adds up to a global "associational revolution," as phrased by Lester M. Salamon, director of the Institute for Policy Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. He has said that this revolution may prove as significant to the latter 20th century as the rise of the nation-state was to the latter 19th century.

Mr. Clinton's volunteer summit may signal a renewal of America's government/nonprofit partnership going back to past centuries. A topic for Harvard's new nonprofit center might be today's equivalents of the 17th-century corn tax that Massachusetts enacted to support Harvard College. Government money still goes to support various nonprofits, but it has dwindled in proportion to need, and nonprofits have been thought of more in the private sector. As increases in private donations fall short of increased needs, the nonprofits rely more and more on fees and service charges - even as Clinton tries to achieve budget cuts through more charges for government services.

Considering America's wealth, these must seem like happy problems to nonprofits in, say, Sri Lanka, where thousands of improvement projects have been organized village by village. Whether at a presidential summit or a rural crossroads, all honor to the human impulse to serve - and the follow-through.

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