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Brian L. Brown on "saving nonprofits": American philanthropy grew as civic life shrank, but the 21st century offers new challenges to the old model.

"The development of modern American philanthropy has largely been the story of the American charitable organization trying to develop effective ways to compensate for the lack of civic relationships, as everything got just plain too big for them to be a common reality. When people didn’t know a neighbor’s situation, what kind of help he needed, and whether he really needed it or was just bumming off society, a full-time professional would fill that gap in order to help the neighbor. Thankfully (the thinking went), modern social science and technology had brought us to a point where we could provide that full-time professional. The nonprofit sector has consequently grown from local communities and fraternal orders to the 'social sector' we see today, funded by large, often data-driven foundations and played out in both large and small professional charities that focus exclusively on fragmented pieces of the puzzle (low-income housing, food pantry, education for disadvantaged youth, etc.)." -- Brian Lawrence Brown, the Statesman

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