National Nonprofit Day

Observed annually on August 17th, National Nonprofit Day celebrates the collective contributions and social impact of the nonprofit sector. It recognizes the diverse ways in which nonprofits enrich communities, provide services, and advocate for causes that enhance society. The day spotlights the stories, people and groups who dedicate themselves to missions over monetary incentives.

National Nonprofit Day

Overview of Nonprofits

Nonprofits, also called not-for-profits or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are groups organized around social welfare, religious, scientific, artistic or charitable missions rather than for profit. They rely on donations, grants and volunteers to sustain their public service goals.

History of Nonprofits

Voluntary civil society organizations have existed since ancient times. But nonprofits in their modern institutionalized form trace back to Victorian era philanthropy and social reforms in the 1800s.

Early Charities and Religious Groups

Groups undertaking social welfare works and religious proselytization have been around for centuries in many cultures. These merged Christian ethics, humanitarian ideals and aristocratic noblesse oblige. But they lacked formal structure.

Victorian Philanthropic Societies

The 1800s saw middle class reformist zeal lead to an explosion of activist nonprofits in Europe and America. Temperance leagues, sanitation reformers, anti-slavery societies, women’s rights groups etc. coalesced around progressive causes, building civil society.

Professionalization and Regulation

The early 20th century brought government funding and policy partnerships with nonprofits providing social services. Nonprofit corporations were also legally formalized. This professionalized the sector and boosted its stature and resources.

Post-War Expansion

Post-WW2 affluence saw further nonprofit growth supporting developing nations, environment, community development, disaster relief and more. Global NGOs like Red Cross, CARE, World Vision, WWF etc. expanded dramatically, heralding today’s robust nonprofit sector.

Types of Nonprofits

Nonprofits span a vast range of issues and activities serving diverse sections of society through various approaches.

Social Service

Affordable housing, food banks, health clinics, family services, disability support etc. provide direct assistance to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Arts and Culture

Museums, orchestraes, theater companies, heritage preservation groups etc. nourish cultural participation and creativity through the arts and humanities.


Places of worship, faith communities, religious schools/hospitals etc. fulfil spiritual needs. But many also support broader social causes like poverty alleviation, disaster relief etc.

Civic and Advocacy

Civil rights groups, think tanks, community foundations, gun control advocates etc. campaign for policy reforms on wide-ranging issues to uphold rights and social justice.

International Aid

Groups like CARE International, Oxfam, World Vision etc. provide humanitarian relief after disasters while also working on systemic solutions like poverty reduction, healthcare, education etc. locally.


Labor unions, business leagues, recreational clubs etc. convene particular constituencies and interests for networking, professional development, hobby promotion, etc.

Benefits of Nonprofits

Beyond their operational missions, nonprofits also provide less tangible but equally invaluable benefits to society:

Pluralism and Diversity

The nonprofit sector encompasses a rich diversity of groups catering to all kinds of societal needs and minority issues. This amplifies pluralism and participation.

Civic Engagement

Nonprofits provide constructive avenues for voluntary public service. This fosters engaged, compassionate communities. Activities like volunteering teach active citizenship.

Social Capital

Gathering people around shared interests, identities or causes fosters interaction and community cohesion. This builds bridging ‘social capital’ – networks enabling collective action.


Mission-driven dedication encourages creative solutions to entrenched problems. Nonprofits pilot new approaches and technologies to address challenges before government does.


Nonprofits raise awareness on overlooked issues. They give voice to underserved groups and advocate for policy reforms that governments may initially resist due to vested interests or conventional wisdom.

Global Solidarity

International nonprofits nurture global consciousness around humanity’s shared risks like climate change or challenges like hunger and displacement that require cooperative action.

Importance of Volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofits, enabling organizations to pursue missions that contribute back to communities.

Complementing Paid Staff

Volunteers support operations and special initiatives where no funding exists for paid employees. This allows delivering extra services.

Contributing Expertise

Beyond general volunteers, nonprofits benefit from pro-bono contributions from professionals like accountants, lawyers, therapists, teachers etc. who can share specialized skills.

Strengthening Communities

Volunteering fosters community belonging and relationships. Familiarity with local needs nurtures civic awareness. These aspects indirectly support nonprofits’ community-building role.

Reducing Costs

Volunteer assistance controls personnel costs. This maximizes the proportion of donor funds directed towards core charitable programs and services instead of overheads.

Embodying Idealism

Dedicated volunteers epitomize the selfless spirit animating nonprofits. Their willingness to give time and effort for causes evokes public sympathy and support for nonprofit missions.

National Nonprofit Day Celebrations

The day provides an occasion for nonprofits to creatively engage their community.

Open Houses

Some organizations host open house events to showcase their facilities, ongoing programs and volunteer opportunities to educate the public on their work.


Special concerts, dinners, fun fairs etc. create opportunities to raise funds and generate awareness on the nonprofit’s cause during National Nonprofit Day.

Social Media Campaigns

Nonprofits harness the #NationalNonprofitDay hashtag to share stories on social media. This highlights community impact and rallies public support.

Awards Ceremonies

Ceremonies recognize standout volunteers. Some nonprofits give special awards to corporate or community partners who provide pro bono services, donations and other assistance.

Employee Appreciation

Leadership uses the occasion to organize appreciation events for paid staff and volunteers, from picnics to morale boosting parties. This thanks them for their year-round dedication.