Government Looks to Non-profits
by James L. Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1992, 1(3), 12. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

Under the new Clinton administration, the non-profit sector will play an important role in the transformation of government, particularly in how the reincarnated public sector operates. The government will forge a strong partnership with non-profits to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Non-profits will be called upon for the generation of new ideas and for evaluating their feasibility. In a campaign policy statement, Clinton indicated that the non- profit sector is one of the primary determining factors in the health and vitality of America's communities. Government at all levels will rely on non-profit organizations to provide certain services more efficiently and more effectively than government bureaucracy.

Clinton brings to Washington a track record of developing non-profit alliances. As governor of Arkansas he was instrumental in the formation of a bank holding company with a non-profit arm. The purpose of the holding company was to spur the state's economy and stimulate new jobs by providing access to financing, capital management and technical assistance. The program was so successful in Arkansas, he now plans to create 100 such banks throughout the United States.

Clinton places high value in the ideas, research, and networks that emerge from the non-profit sector. It is a sector free to explore social innovation, and it provides an independent vehicle for citizens' voice in policy issues. Non-profits can also strengthen new programs backed by government by placing them squarely in the hands of the local community. We anticipate that all major line agencies in the federal government will be staffed with individuals committed to working in partnership with non-profits. [Cohen, T. (1992, November 15) Leaders expected to lean on non-profits The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC, 1F, 3F.]


The new political environment provides an unprecedented opportunity to participate in the research and development of social policy. Higher education should find government more receptive to new ideas and new initiatives, particularly if the outcome of these ideas and initiatives is administrative efficiency. In this new environment, college and university leaders can have an important role in assisting non-profit foundations and organizations in selecting and evaluating funding proposals and in working with the non-profits to establish and implement a systematic program to address particular social policy issues. It is important, therefore, that college and university leaders volunteer to serve on non-profit boards in order to foster interaction and communication.

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