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February 23, 2009
CONTACT: Amy Lunday

Nonprofit Leaders to President and Congress:
1 Million Charities Are Ready to Help

Unprecedented Declaration calls for renewing
America's compact with its "citizen sector."

In an unprecedented appeal to America's public and private leadership and to the American people, leaders of organizations representing tens of thousands of American nonprofit organizations today called for a reinvigorated and empowered partnership between government and the nonprofit, or "citizen sector," to address our country's social, economic, and environmental problems and improve the quality of community life.

The nonprofit leaders issued a Declaration entitled, "Forward Together: Empowering America's Citizen Sector for the Change We Need," that calls on the nation's governments and businesses to join with its citizen sector for a renewed "partnership in public service."

Citing major needs, from housing, to food and clothing, to the strains on the nation's cultural institutions and its facilities for youth, the homeless and the aged, the nonprofit leaders said that now is the time to act to strengthen the capacity of a citizen sector that "shelters the homeless, trains the unemployed, educates our youth, builds affordable housing, counsels families, delivers health care, gives voice to the powerless, enriches our lives with arts and culture, and serves America in a myriad other ways by uniquely mobilizing citizen initiative for the common good."

The declaration highlights the economic contributions of America's citizen sector, including its 11 million paid workers, more than the construction industry, finance, transportation and real estate. But the declaration warns that the citizen sector will need help to play the role of which it is capable in these tough economic times.

Signers of the declaration include citizen sector leaders from Hawaii to Maine, representing a broad array of nonprofit institutions, from small community development organizations to large networks of faith-based nursing homes. An advertisement set to appear in the next issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy appeals to others to join this call, to ensure that the citizen sector is no longer overlooked as a crucial partner in solving the country's deepening problems.

"The citizen sector is a powerful engine for change with enormous potentials to assist in coping with our nation's problems, but the country is not taking anywhere close to full advantage of these potentials," said Lester M. Salamon, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies and of its Nonprofit Listening Post Project, which organized the seminar that initially generated the declaration. "The outpouring of support for this Declaration speaks to the need many people in this sector feel for a clear reminder of the immense contributions nonprofit organizations are capable of making at this critical point in our nation's history if they are only given the chance."

Peter Goldberg, CEO of the Alliance for Children and Families and a leader in the development of the declaration, said that "we must change our world view from half-empty to half-full. We can rightfully see our collapsing economy as leading to persistent poverty, disappearing jobs, strained families, failing schools, and many other social problems. Or, we can instead focus on what can be done and how we can do it together. Those of us who work in the citizen sector are ready to act, and we can be so much more effective if we act in true partnership with leaders in business and government."

In addition to its call to action, the declaration outlines a set of concrete ways that nonprofits could help with America's economic recovery, such as utilizing the sizable network of nonprofit housing and community development finance institutions to help re-work problem mortgages, and incentivizing increased charitable giving. In addition, the declaration details broader steps the country can take to renew its compact with the citizen sector, such as reforming government-nonprofit partnerships, investing in citizen sector capacity, and supporting new models of nonprofit finance.

To accommodate the numerous other nonprofit leaders and supporters across the country that may want to be associated with this declaration, the Johns Hopkins Listening Post Project has created a Web site at www.jhu.edu/listeningpost/forward where the declaration can be viewed in its entirety and interested persons can sign on and learn about steps they can take to extend the reach and impact of this document, such as encouraging colleagues and board members to sign on, and bringing the document to the attention of local policymakers and the media. The first page of the declaration and the full list of initial signers will be published in the Feb. 26, 2009, edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.