Helping the Poor Is No Longer a Priority for Today's Nonprofits



          By Pablo Eisenberg
          Senior Fellow
          Georgetown Public Policy Institute

In the last decade or so, nonprofits have stopped caring about the plight of the poor.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, nonprofits joined together when cuts in social-safety-net programs were proposed.

Organizations that represented mostly middle-class people, like the League of Women Voters, professional groups for social workers, and major nonprofit coalitions such as Independent Sector, joined their antipoverty and grass-roots colleagues to fight against threats to the poor.

A wide range of health and education institutions, women's groups, consumer and civic organizations, and charities that aided the elderly made fighting poverty one of their major program priorities. They worked in tandem with organizations that mobilized the poor to fight for their rights­ -- most of them now gone -- in effective partnerships that commanded the attention of political leaders and government agencies. The leaders of all those nonprofit organizations never lost sight of the enormous problems that poverty presented for civil society and democracy.

Today, matters of poverty seem to be off the radar screen of nonprofits. That couldn't be more evident than in the failure of nonprofits to rush to oppose the massive assault on food stamps now working its way through the House of Representatives.

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