June 21st through June 25th 2021 is Celebrate Nonprofits Week. The Nonprofit Partnership created this week to celebrate and recognize the incredible individuals and organizations that make up the nonprofit sector.
The nonprofit sector is often called the third sector. Here at The Nonprofit Partnership, we like to call it the first sector. It is the sector that does what the private and public sector cannot do for our fellow citizens. It serves those who are not served by others – often, those with limited wealth, influence, capacity, or ability. The nonprofit sector is America’s social safety net.
The nonprofit sector is something that is truly American. Nonprofits have existed long before the founding of our country. In fact, in its early days, the philanthropic spirit of early America was often noted as one of its main strengths. In more modern times, nonprofits became formally recognized by the government. They are private enterprises that serve in a competitive landscape, answerable to the communities they serve. They are governed by volunteers, who receive no financial reward for their work, and staffed by professionals who have dedicated their lives to serving missions.
In addition to serving as America’s social safety net, the sector is a significant economic force in our country, state, and region. There are approximately 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. Nationally, they account for more than 10% of private employment and are the third largest employment sector, surpassing manufacturing. In Pennsylvania, there are more than 63,000 registered nonprofits, making up more than 15% of the state’s workforce. Locally, the impact of the sector is much more significant. 17 of the 50 largest employers in Erie County are nonprofits and they account for 19% of private employment—more than 20,000 jobs—in the Erie metropolitan area.
Beyond the history of the sector and the economic force that it is, the value of the sector was highlighted recently during the pandemic. Many of the “essential” organizations that had to remain open during the early stages of the pandemic were nonprofits. Many of the people we saw wearing masks, serving the sick and needy, and risking their lives were nonprofit employees. According to a May 2020 poll, Americans had a greater degree of trust in nonprofits than in the government in dealing with the pandemic. 70% of Americans expressed confidence in the sector’s response to the pandemic, as opposed to the 65% confidence in state and local government or the 44% confidence in the federal government.
This past year has only reinforced the incredible value and resilience of the sector. It is a sector made up of people that often serve behind the scenes to do the important work of changing and saving lives. It is a sector that often has to do that incredibly important work with limited resources, and certainly with limited recognition. That is why we created this week.
Celebrate Nonprofits Week is a time when we can pause and focus on those who make incredible sacrifices to serve our communities. It’s a time to thank those who work in the sector for their selfless service. It’s a time for the sector to stand up and be recognized for the important role it serves in our society as the first sector.
Join us at The Nonprofit Partnership as we celebrate our nonprofits.