Jane R. Gordon
Focus Group Moderator
November 18, 1996
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FOR USE AS AN OP-ED ONLY
CONTACT: Lowman S. Henry / (717) 671-0776
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR AMERICA'S CHARITIES?
By Lowman S. Henry
With another season of giving upon us, it is
an appropriate time to ponder the future of America's
charitable, non-profit community. With a less
revolutionary Congress and a President inclined to
compromise, what is in store for the sector of our
economy responsible for delivering a large portion of our
nation's social services?
State governments got the efficiency nod from
17% while 21% said municipal/local governments were most
efficient and 25% picked counties as the most efficient level of
government. Even more, 28% said no level of government could
provide social services efficiently.
Despite their mistrust of government, and their desire for more flexibility, 54% said they would prefer to stick with program- specific funding rather than switch to block grants. Block grants, the main vehicle used to devolve federal funding to the states, was supported by 23% of those responding. Another 14% took an even more free market approach by supporting revenue sharing with municipalities. Letting state and local governments use their own taxing authority to raise funds was supported by 9% of those responding.
The non-profit operators are well aware (78%) of Congress' efforts to devolve social services by moving from program-specific to block grant funding. And, while they are reluctant to move away from program-specific funding, those answering the Lincoln Institute survey strongly endorsed devolving social service programs to state and local governments and to non-profit organizations. 63% support such devolution while 26% voiced opposition. 11% offered no opinion.
Significant changes in the way they operate are expected by 23% of the non-profit organizations as Congress devolves funding for social services. Another 24% expect to be moderately affected, 25% say they will be minimally affected and 28% expect devolution will have no effect on their operations. Clearly, Pennsylvania's non-profit sector feels it is better equipped to deliver services than any government entity. When asked if they could deliver services in their area of expertise more efficiently than government, 72% said they could while only 16% felt government could do a better job.
A similar number, 77% felt services provided by non-profit organizations were better for the long-term health of their community while 12% felt services provided by government were in their community's best interests.
As they look to the future, non-profits expect the bulk of their funding to come primarily from individual giving (37%), from grantmaking foundations (15%) and from membership dues (15%). Government funding -- federal, state and local -- was expected to play a sustaining role at 33% of the organizations.
Former U. S. Secretary of Education Dr. William Bennett said of the devolution debate that "if the liberal fallacy is an abiding faith in the all sufficiency of government, then the conservative fallacy could easily become an abiding faith in the all sufficiency of non-government."
Bill Bennett is right. As Congress and non-profits go about the task of defining the third sector's role in the age of devolution, they must find a way unleash the entrepreneurial energy of America's charities, while at the same time ensuring adequate services will be available to those truly in need.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman of the Lincoln
Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc., a non-profit
educational foundation based in Harrisburg, PA.)