Advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations in the United States, at some point, affect everyone’s life.
In every State, these types of organizations are working to better their communities by directly addressing issues of public concern through service, independent action, or civic engagement. These organizations span the political spectrum of ideas and encompass every aspect of human endeavor, from symphonies to little leagues, and from homeless shelters and daycare centers to natural resource conservation advocates. These organizations often are collectively called “nonprofits,” a name that is used to describe institutions and organizations that are neither government nor business. Other names often used include the not-for-profit sector, the third sector, the independent sector, the philanthropic sector, the voluntary sector, or the social sector. Outside the United States, these organizations often are called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society organizations.
These other names emphasize the characteristics that distinguish advocacy, grantmaking, and civic organizations from businesses and government. Unlike businesses, these organizations do not exist to make money for owners or investors, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot charge fees or sell products that generate revenue, or that revenue must not exceed expenses. Instead, these groups are dedicated to a specific mission that enhances the social fabric of society. Unlike the government, these organizations are not able to mandate changes through legislation or regulations enforceable by law. Instead, they work toward the mission of their organization by relying on a small group of paid staff and the voluntary service and financial support of large numbers of their members or the public. This industry includes four main segments: business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations, civic and social organizations, social advocacy organizations, and grantmaking and giving services.