A recent report on MSNBC notes that America’s 1.4 million nonprofits (as registered with the IRS in 2004) account for 5.2% of the nation’s economic output and 8.3% of its wages and salaries.

That’s a significant contribution indeed to the nation’s economic well-being, but it pales in importance to the enormous good work charities, cause groups and other nonprofits accomplish on behalf of making a better world.

For that we should all be thankful. In fact, we should be equally thankful for the doers and the funders, be those funders mega-donors like Buffett, Gates and Turner or one of the millions of mainstream donors whose $25 and $50 gifts comprise the bulk of philanthropy in America. Or be those funders “traditional” grantmakers or the latest round of “philanthropreneurs.”

At the same time, there’s much for nonprofits to be reflecting upon these days in terms of how they can become even more effective in meeting their goals.

The same MSNBC report cites a Harris poll from the summer in which only 10% of respondents strongly agreed that charities spent their donated funds in an “honest and ethical” manner. Clearly, for all charities, accountability and integrity — building trust — in the most fundamental sense must be paramount.

And everybody these days seems more focused, properly we believe, on delivering measurable results and progress. Recognizing that difficult issues surround how to measure progress in many nonprofit pursuits, our community still needs to accept and respond to the reality that Americans are trained to expect forward movement and visible results … in fact, this expectation is in our blood. Unfortunately, at the same time, we all seem to be more and more impatient.

So as you digest your Thanksgiving leftovers these next few days, here are a few articles you should also chew over. They all deal one way or the other with the state of philanthropy in America as 2006 ends. Good food for thought.

First, three good overviews from Stephanie Strom in the NY Times (requires subscription), Kathleen Day in the Washington Post and Jane Lampman in the Christian Science Monitor. As well as the aforementioned MSNBC report.

Then a nice series of thought pieces prepared in conjunction with the recent philanthropy confab hosted by Slate.com and Bill Clinton, from Henry Blodget on venture philanthropy, Sebastian Mallaby on the “threshold test for philanthropists,” and David Nasaw with a rather contrarian view.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


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