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It's time for nonprofit leaders to lead society. Here's how.

In the United States, there are 1,571,056 nonprofit organizations.

That's one nonprofit for every 202 people who live in the United States.

This year, about one out of every four U.S. residents will volunteer at one of those nonprofits.

Friend, if you're leading one of those nonprofits, I hope you see just how influential you can be.

Most of the time when we talk about nonprofits, we talk about the difference they make in the lives of the people their programs serve. We talk about how many people a nonprofit educated, fed, sheltered, trained, or treated.

I don't hear many people talking about how nonprofits can change the behaviors, hearts, and minds of people like donors, neighbors, public officials, and volunteers.

You've seen it, haven't you? How people change the more time they spend among your mission and your people? My years in nonprofit work did more to change my class and racial biases than four decades in the church.

While houses of worship, neighborhoods, and schools often keep us apart from people who are different, nonprofits bring us in close.

Americans often talk about others who are not present in the conversation. Nonprofits often bring us into the presence of one another where we do more than talk; we work together for a common cause.

Enemies and strangers become friends and partners with purpose.

If you're leading a nonprofit, think about the very special role you fill in our society: Bridge-builder between classes, parties, races, and religions. Common ground for people we often assume have very little in common.

Our mission statements often point resources and services toward the needy.

What if we added two new points to our mission statements--just as vital:

  • We educate our clients, community leaders, donors, and volunteers to build awareness, empathy, and understanding between them.

  • We bridge the divides that keep people in our society apart from each other.

As tax-exempt organizations, we do no pay out our net margins to owners. Society is our owner. We pay out our net margins for the good of society. This is language we need to use in our boardrooms and offices because it reminds us of our public trust.

It also reminds us that our mission is to society--not just one segment of society.

Society needs us to act upon our understanding that our nonprofits can be glue that helps it stick together.

What could be more important now?

Onward and upward.

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