Nonprofits, Aid Thyselves

December 25, 1992

The new Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations ca be a boon to the smaller charities, service agencies, arts groups and other nonprofits that find the recession hard going. It offers them aid, and ways to help themselves and each other.

It's a trade association, with lawyer Peter Berns as executive, looking out for the interests of groups too small to lobby in Annapolis or buy computers or buy health insurance for employees or get training in techniques of fund raising or grant writing.

Nearly half the states have such groups. This one grew from study of the nonprofit sector by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and from the campaign by Partners for Giving to get more people to give money and time to worthy activities.

There's a lot of know-how that people soak up from years working for the theater or housing or literacy or any of a hundred other causes. But they don't always share it beyond a small circle of their own kind. They are forever reinventing the wheel. Maybe they can share their designs for that wheel and get on to other things.

Maryland Nonprofit will get these people together, send them literature, set up cooperative buying, offer a common benefits package for employees, speak up for them in Annapolis. For instance, state government is trying to crack down on crooked solicitation by fake charities, and a good thing that is. But it's important somebody sees that this effort does not crimp honest solicitation by real charities.

Right now there are 193 member groups and 35 associate members. It's a statewide group and should grow much larger than that. Probably agencies just above the smallest to middle-size, those with budgets between $50,000 and $5 million a year, can use these services best. Very large and professional organizations, such as colleges and hospitals, are more likely to participate by sharing their professional expertise. It's in their interest to see that the smaller agencies are healthy.

This kind of mutual self-help ought to insure that hundreds of nonprofit agencies come through the current recession leaner and more efficient, better able to perform their missions with the resources available to them.

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