The Nonprofit Sector at a Crossroads: The Case of America

Lester M. Salamon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Despite some encouraging trends, America's nonprofit sector stands at a cross-roads because of an interrelated series of challenges. Government budget cuts beginning in the early 1980s have eliminated a significant source of nonprofit revenues and created a serious fiscal squeeze for many organizations. Although the sector as a whole managed to replace this lost revenue, it has done so largely through fees and charges that have attracted for-profit businesses into traditional fields of nonprofit action, creating a serious economic challenge to the sector. Simultaneously, important questions have been raised about the effectiveness and accountability of nonprofit organizations, and about what some see as the over-professionalization and bureaucratization of the sector. All of this has undermined public confidence in the sector and prompted questions about the basic legiti-macy of the special tax and legal benefits it enjoys. To cope with these challenges. American nonprofits could usefully undergo a process of renewal that revives the sector's basic values, reconnects it to its citizen base, and creates a better public understanding of its functions and role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999



  • For-profit competition
  • Nonprofit accountability
  • Nonprofit funding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management

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