Some philanthropy bloggers predict, and are thrilled by the prospect of, an impending convergence between the sectors–which is what they call it when local governments privatize garbage collection, or nonprofits open businesses in a desperate effort to make their rent, or philanthropists decide that giving money away isn’t nearly as good as lending it to someone who won’t make in a lifetime what they’ll make on their investments today. Occasionally you’ll even hear a little rhapsody about how well things are or can be done in the complete absence of nonprofits–as when local businesses give space for private individuals to donate books for a sale to benefit the public library, "nary a nonprofit to be found!"
Leaving aside the fact that it’s no cause for celebration if a public library can’t secure enough public funds to support itself without the unpaid overtime labor of librarians operating a book sale and the commercial participation of people whose primary business ISN’T literacy–never mind that, I say; here’s a more modest counter-example, of a setting in which nonprofits are making all the difference:
Don Imus, a radio shock-jock, decided to celebrate the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on Wednesday by describing the African-American women of the Rutgers basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" and laughing when his interlocutor (another show employee) characterized the team’s game with Tennessee as "the jigaboos versus the wannabes." Doubtless anyone who heard this was offended, but it took the efforts of the National Association of Black Journalists and other nonprofits (including Association for Women Journalists–Chicago, on whose Board the Nonprofiteer serves) to spread the word of the outrage and make sure the private sector (the New York Times, Imus’s parent company NBC) and the public sector (the Federal Communications Commission) paid heed.
Nonprofits are organized agglomerations of people acting in the public good when the political process is too retrograde and the economic system too profit-oriented to do so. The very existence of global warming–which economies encouraged and politicians ignored–should be enough by itself to demonstrate that sometimes there’s no way but the nonprofit way to get important things done.