Kids are Best Served by the Nonprofit Sector

Jim Roberts
September, 8, 2015 -

"Nonprofits and charities in our local communities play a critical role in helping our children succeed. They help children learn, improve access to health care and aid in the development of skills needed to live happy, healthy lives. I'm pleased the Senate unanimously designated September as National Child Awareness Month to remind us that children are our future and we all play a role in helping them thrive.” –– Senator Dianne Feinstein

Most Americans don’t fully understand how much benefit our children and youth derive from our nonprofit sector. Every day, millions of our kids, and their parents I might add, depend on a broad array of services and supports delivered by child-serving nonprofits. Childcare; youth sports organizations; Big Brothers/Sisters; Boys & Girls Clubs; healthcare providers; hospitals and specialty medical services; social services organizations; housing organizations; transportation; private foster care and treatment services; and afterschool programs are just some of the services provided by nonprofits to enhance the lives of children and youth, and to assist their caregivers. Seriously, without these services, most families would be much worse off and struggling.

Which leads me to give a hearty “Thank You” to the US Senate and Senator Feinstein for introducing and passing S. Res. 223 with the specific purpose to:

  1. To promote awareness of charities benefitting children and youth‑serving organizations throughout the United States; and
  2. To recognize the efforts made by the charities and organizations on behalf of children and youth as critical contributions to the future of the United States.

...Children are our future and we all play a role in helping them thrive; and, the Nonprofit Sector is the best social institution, aside from family, to meet the needs of children and youth. Here’s why:

Child serving nonprofits are driven by mission, not money! (Personally, I prefer the term not-for-profit.) This statement is really a no-brainer. For-profit companies are driven by maximizing revenue which equates to reducing costs in order to make more money. By contrast, not-for-profit organizations are compelled by maximizing the social benefit and positive impact they produce. The not-for-profit world is characterized by “whatever it takes”; the for-profit thinking is characterized by “the least we can get away with.” Our children and youth are too valuable to be lost in the morass of greed and profiteering.

Not-for-profits’ care of our children and youth is generally nimble, adaptive, responsive and incredibly innovative. And these critical characteristics can help fill in gaps when government agencies find their hands tied. Don’t get me wrong, there are many very amazing, caring and innovative individuals serving children and youth within our government entities, and the Family Care Network enjoys strong collaborative relationships with our local government partners. But I know firsthand having worked for 15+ years as an administrator in the public sector, that changing a public agency is tantamount to redirecting a battleship – it can be done, but very slowly. By partnering with not-for-profit organizations, Government agencies can more fully respond and meet community needs much more quickly, and with a lot of efficiently and creativity, benefitting entire community.

Another characteristic of not-for-profit organizations which totally sets us apart from for-profit organizations, is the ability to mobilize the community to action. A hallmark of an effective not-for-profit is the degree of community integration within the fabric of the organization. As Senator Feinstein stated “... we all play a role in helping [children] thrive.” Not-for-profit organizations provide that conduit for engagement and opportunities for helping. It may be volunteering, mentoring or tutoring; or it may be providing goods and services or fiscal support. All are important elements of the picture which portrays how the nonprofit organization is positively impacting the lives of children and youth–fulfilling its mission!

For nearly 30 years, I have had the privilege to pilot the Family Care Network in serving the children and youth on the Central Coast of California. But we are just one of many incredible nonprofit organizations, locally and nationally, working very hard, often unnoticed, to enrich many young lives, each representing our future. Take the time to thank your local child-serving nonprofits. Or better yet – get involved!

Be the Difference in the life of a child by embracing the principles of National Child Awareness Month:

  1. Nurture one child. That’s all it takes to make a difference.
  2. Children are the future of philanthropy. It’s our responsibility to teach them the importance of sharing and giving back.
  3. Actions speak louder than words. Find a children’s cause that’s important to you and get involved!
  4. Many hands make light work. So join forces with those who share your goals and dreams.