Too Many Nonprofit Organizations?

All nonprofits – whether they are food banks, hospitals, day care facilities, drug rehabilitation centers, museums, or historical societies – share the same core mission: providing some benefit for the greater good of the community.

Of course, each organization’s specific mission is based on its unique position in the community, but in the end, we all believe our nonprofit is unique and indispensable. The President of the Napa Valley Community Foundation addressed this issue in a recent newsletter: “Are there too many nonprofit organizations?”

Our local community has 563 nonprofit organizations and only 130,000 residents. That causes stiff competition for scarce funding resources. Some of these nonprofits are concerned with fulfilling basic human needs. Our county, for example, desperately needs its three hospitals. But what about the thirteen organizations dedicated to preserving local history and related missions?

One museum covers the county; another is concerned with the valley’s history. We have a museum dealing with preservation, while a fourth focuses just on landmarks. We have specialty museums about the region’s fire fighters, the police, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Jewish community, and the Biographical and Genealogical Society. Then there’s the Sharpsteen Museum, the American Canyon Historical Association, and the St. Helena Historical Society. Because of budget cuts, volunteers help run the local state park.

Collaborating and/or merging organizations with like-minded missions may resolve much of this problem.

I have coordinated many collaborative events and educational opportunities for these groups, but I’m curious about what other communities do when they face this situation.

What are your thoughts?

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The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) is a national association that provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people.

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