Religion and NGOs

The State Of Nonprofit America

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 6, Issue 1, September 2003

Edited by Lester M. Salamon.
Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2002.
563 pp. $62.95 hardcover, $28.95 paper.

The seventeen papers published here assess the American not-for-profit sector, first by fields of activity (health, education, social services, culture, etc.) and then by major challenges. These challenges include commercialization and for-profit competition, relations with government, shifts in demography and technology, and–perhaps of particular interest to IJNL readers–accountability and the public trust, a chapter by Evelyn Brody of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.

The editor, Lester M. Salamon, is the director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and the author of more than twenty books. In an introductory chapter, he writes that the not-for-profit sector in the United States is “surprisingly robust … with more organizations doing more things more effectively than ever before. At the same time, the movement to the market that has made this possible has also exposed the sector to enormous risks. What is more, the risks go to the heart of what makes the nonprofit sector distinctive and worthy of public support–its basic identity, its mission, and its ability to retain the public’s trust.” He concludes “that some adjustments are needed, that America’s nonprofit institutions require broader support in preserving the features that make them special”–and, more broadly, “that better public understanding of the state of nonprofit America is needed if such judgments are to be possible.”