I've been reflecting lately on the role of nonprofits. I took a great class on nonprofit history back at Case Western on the history of nonprofits, and for some reason I've been thinking a lot about it lately. While its difficult to sum-up a semester's worth of learning in 1 sentence, I'll try...
Nonprofits exist to fill the gaps in services that government
or corporations either can't or are unwilling to provide.
Now there was obviously a lot more to the class than just that sentence. But think about it: food banks exist to feed hungry people who can't afford to buy food. The federal government (huge shout-out to Ben Franklin here...) decided to help nonprofits help society by giving them some perks - perks that then help us to convince individuals, corporations, service groups and all manner of organizations to invest in us - and therefore to invest in the future of the community.
With all of this floating around in my head, it is interesting that I then see a tweet (thanks National Recreation and Parks Association!) that points me to an article that talks about the recently-expanding role of nonprofits - to fund programs that governments USED to fund.
And here is the part that, for obvious reasons, caught my attention first:
"Parks is a classic example of that, whether its government funding going away for parks,
or parks getting to the point where people want to take action and they'll create
a conservancy or some sort of organization
that either provides volunteers to make up for that or raises money
for specific improvements maybe."
It's a terrific article from Peoria Public Radio and goes on to talk specifically about a group in west-central Illinois that is working to pay for a park that the park department just can't afford to maintain all that well.
Which is EXACTLY the puporse of the Spokane Parks Foundation - to help bridge the gap between what local parks departments can afford, and what parks need to thrive.
And we've been doing this since 1951.
For more almost 64 years (happy birthday to us in January!) we've been leveraging the dollars given to us to invest in parks. We've awarded over $2 million in grants. We've helped local grassroots groups grow into vital park-protecting, park-funding, park-warrior groups. (See the success of the Friends of Manito and the Centennial Trail for two key examples.) We've advocated for new parks. (Riverfront Park was a hugely successful cause.) And we've helped thousands of kids afford to use the public pools located in the parks.
I for one can't wait to see what we can do with our next 63.75 years.
I hope that you will join us.
PS: Here's that terrific article!