Amid the global pandemic and a whirlwind of uncertainty, it’s easy to feel dejected and hopeless. The good in the world can be hard to see. It’s there, though, and sometimes it takes the form of a nonprofit organization. These organizations can have a massive impact, working toward building healthy communities and providing resources and services to those who most need them. They can help boost economic prosperity and bring community members together to make a difference.
With a passion and a goal, anyone can start a nonprofit organization. Just ask Karen and Charles Phillips, the couple who created the Phillips Charitable organization dedicated to helping single parents, wounded veterans, and students in pursuit of engineering degrees. The Phillips are working toward a better future, even if the odds don’t seem in their favor. Thankfully, they’re not the only ones; there are nonprofits making a difference around the country. Here’s some info on what a nonprofit organization is and how it can make a positive and inspiring impact on its community.
What Is a Nonprofit Organization?
A nonprofit organization is more or less what it sounds like: an organization that operates not with the goal of making money, but rather to further a social cause, protect and advance a marginalized community, or advocate for a particular point of view. The most popular type of nonprofit is a 501(c)(3) charity, which includes organizations like animal shelters, religious organizations, and public safety groups. These organizations primarily receive funding through donations and grants and are tax exempt. Another common type of nonprofit is 501(c)(4) groups, which differ from 501(c)(3) charities in that they’re able to lobby and participate in politics.
It’s the government’s job to decide whether your organization qualifies as a nonprofit, allowing it to avoid taxation. For the government to recognize your organization as such, you have to file bylaws and/or articles of incorporation in the state in which your organization plans to operate. In turn, the government will recognize and evaluate your purpose, and, hopefully, grant you nonprofit status. From there, you’ll be on your way to making an impact in your community.
What Kinds of Nonprofits Exist?
When you think of a nonprofit, there might come to mind a specific organization in your neighborhood or one that you saw on television. The reality is that there are over 1.5 million different nonprofit organizations in the United States serving children and/or adults. Nonprofits can be based around things such as food, education, or sports, including homeless shelters, clothing drives, soup kitchens, little leagues, and women’s centers. A nonprofit organization is not singularly defined; it can have various functions and help people of any demographic.
How Do Nonprofits Impact Communities?
On a smaller scale, nonprofits target and influence the individuals and demographics that they serve. However, having a nonprofit in your neighborhood can also positively affect the culture of your community as a whole. Nonprofit organizations can bring community members together to meet a common goal for the common good, regardless of background, race, or gender. When a community comes together in the pursuit of a cause, it fosters feelings of love and belonging, and a sense of value among people in marginalized communities who might not always feel supported.
How Do You Get Involved in a Nonprofit Organization?
To be an agent of change in your community, the first step can be to identify a cause you’re passionate about it and what skills you can contribute to it. For example, if you were a basketball player when you were a kid, perhaps you can contribute to an organization as a basketball coach. Or maybe you were a computer science major in college, so you can help teach kids who have never used a computer how to code.
Aside from being a hands-on volunteer, you could go after a seat on an organization’s board. Board members act as the sort of “parents” of a nonprofit; they work to steer their organization in a positive direction and make sure it has all the resources, tools, and volunteers it needs to prosper and thrive. If that’s not for you, you can make a difference just by being a donor. Find a nonprofit that moves you and put aside some money each month for donations. The bottom line is that there are multiple ways of getting involved in a nonprofit for a cause you care about; when there’s a will, there’s a way.
Nonprofit organizations are essential in fighting for social change, and if you want to make a difference in your community, it’s easy to get involved. So decide what you’re passionate about and find a nonprofit in your area — or take a leap of faith and start your own. There’s nothing that feels quite as good as helping others.