While there have always been people and organizations busy bringing the world hope, the rise of the nonprofit organization has provided a strong platform from which change-makers have strengthened and disseminated their work for the common good. On August 17th we will have a chance to honor our organizations for the third National Nonprofit Day.
What Is National Nonprofit Day?
National Nonprofit day was founded by Sherita J. Herring--a renowned speaker, author, business strategist, and nonprofit expert--in order to encourage people to learn about and become involved with nonprofits and to honor the impact that these organizations have around the world.
We celebrate the holiday on August 17, which is the day that The Tariff Act of 1894 was signed into law. The law imposed the first federal income tax on corporations but included exemptions for nonprofit corporations and charitable institutions which still remain a solid part of the law.
National Nonprofit Day allows us to take a pause and recognize not only the altruistic goals of these organizations, but the positive impact that they have on our communities and the world.
Whether it's a low-income person receiving needed medical attention, an animal being rescued from an unsavory situation, a first responder receiving a nutritious meal, or a homeless family finding shelter, many benefit from the work nonprofits do. Our nonprofits are often the glue that holds society together in a time when a profit-making mindset dominates the economy.
Some nonprofits are hundreds of years old, but most charitable organizations were founded within the past 30 years. In fact, nonprofits are the most rapidly growing organizations in the world. Because of the many diverse nonprofits working in every community, millions of lives are impacted every day. It would be challenging to find anyone who has not been influencedin some way by a nonprofit organization.
Why We Need to Celebrate National Nonprofit Day
There is so much to celebrate about the work, impact, and wonder of charitable nonprofits. On National Nonprofit Day is a day we reflect on the organizations that make a difference in our communities and the individuals behind these organizations who have committed themselves to making a lasting impact. It is an opportunity for nonprofits to tell their stories and advance their missions to a more receptive audience.
Nonprofit organizations are a far more sizable economic force than is commonly appreciated. Based on projections of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonprofits are the third largest workforce in the United States, behind only retail trade and manufacturing. Over the last decade, nonprofit jobs have grown nearly four times the rate of the for-profit ones, and they currently employ more than 10% of the private workforce.
It is up to nonprofits, their supporters, and their collaborators to help the world understand the importance of nonprofits so that they can continue to be well-funded and staffed far into the future. National Nonprofit day is only three years old, and not yet widely known. Earth Day took decades to evolve into the international celebration and day of action it is today, which now includes events in over 193 countries.
However, thanks to the internet, trends and ideas now circulate the world in breakneck time. We have the power to make this national holiday a turning point in way nonprofits are valued.
Five Meaningful Ways to Celebrate National Nonprofit Day
While we may hope that the general public will take the initiative and celebrate nonprofits, it is usually those of us who work with and for nonprofits that really understand the importance of our organizations in our communities. Here are several meaningful ways that nonprofits and their supporters can celebrate and help educate the public.
Highlight the Holiday in Your Communications and Outreach
Use the hashtag #nationalnonprofitday on your social media channels to create awareness for your organization and the holiday. Encourage your followers to find one small thing they can do that day to honor nonprofits. Create a public meme with a heartfelt message and a call to action that can be widely shared.
Write about your organization, its goals, and why its cause is important. Thank your sister organizations for their great work and spread the word about other organizations that you respect. We are all in this together. There are many ways to communicate our message. If you have a newsletter or blog, write about National Nonprofit Day. There is still far too little information about it, and it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page yet.
You can also take advantage of the opportunity the holiday presents by soliciting more involvement in your nonprofit from your readers by encouraging them to do some of the following:
Thank the People That Keep Your Organization Running
If you are a leader in your organization, and even if you're not, commemorate this special day of recognition by thanking volunteers for their support. Recognize those who are active in and advocating on your organization's behalf. Highlight their accomplishments and perhaps present them with a token of your appreciation. This would be a good day to host a volunteer appreciation party. Nonprofit organizations depend on volunteers and couldn't function without them.
Employees also deserve recognition for the work they do. For the most part, people working for nonprofits aren't doing it to get rich; and chances are they never will be. They do the work because it is important to them. Honor that.
Celebrate the People and Places You Serve
Whether its forests spared, first responders receiving meals during a disaster, or someone recovering from a life-threatening disease, there's a reason your organization exists. Showcase those who have benefited from your tireless efforts in your communications outlets. This will lead to greater meaning in your fundraising and engagement initiatives.
Celebrating the people you serve gives recognition of the parts of our society that are being strengthened through our nonprofit work. Show the reason your organization exists and should continue to exist. Did a young person that your organization supported get accepted at Stanford? Did your conservation work lead to the restoration of an essential ecosystem? Tell the stories. Show the faces.
Launch a Campaign
Many organizations use holidays to generate themes for launches of new campaigns or fundraisers. Implementing a new campaign or fundraiser makes even more sense on National Nonprofit Day.
You could take it a step further and launch a campaign that highlights the work of nonprofits! Last year a credit union in Massachusetts launched a campaign that allowed community members to nominate their favorite 501(c)(3) nonprofit for the chance to win a large donation.
Other organizations have rallied local advertising agencies to highlight nonprofit organizations, free of charge, in newspapers, billboards, and radio. Last year, numerous nonprofits were featured on billboards in the heart of Times Square to spread awareness for National Nonprofit Day.
Collaborate With the Community
This is a great holiday to reach into your community and help people get to know your organization.
One way to do this is to invite input and comments from your community. You could do something as simple as publishing a survey or creating a Facebook post asking for input about a campaign. Better yet, put on an event. You can invite the community to meet your organization at an open house or in a question-and-answer session.
Some communities put on nonprofit fairs, a place where nonprofits set up booths, represent their organizations, and connect with each other. This gives the community a chance to get to know their local nonprofits and the work that they do. They get to meet the people within the organizations and learn how to get involved. It's a great way to find new volunteers. Nonprofit fairs are also an excellent opportunity to do some nonprofit networking.
Reaching Out to Reach Up
National Nonprofit Day is a perfect day to reach out to other organizations. Nonprofits do not live in an organizational bubble; we are all working for the same people. Collaboration makes us stronger. Get to know the nonprofit leaders in your community. Build alliances with other organizations and the people who are working on the same issues as you are or the issues that compliment your own.
While it takes time and energy to plan for an event like a nonprofit fair, one can always start with something small. That small thing could grow each year into a collaborative annual event.
Let's take a minute to honor the nonprofit organization and to create a space for individuals to honor those people and organizations that work to make the world a better place. We can and should advance National Nonprofit Day as a day of action, and it will start with you and me.