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2 new books are full of valuable information about non-profits


I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the annual meeting of the American Lung Association of Maryland, a leader in the war against lung diseases. My topic: future trends as they might affect non-profits.

While discussing volunteerism, a member of the audience asked me whether adult men or women volunteered more. I was stumped. But, I knew that, back at the office, I had the answer.

Last month, Jossey-Bass Publishers (350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94104; 415-433-1767) sent me a copy of their Nonprofit Almanac: 1992-1993, ($49.95) a fact-packed, 600-page book, co-published and developed by Independent Sector (1828 Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; 202-223-8100), an organization devoted to encouraging giving, volunteerism and non-profit initiatives.

Want to know about volunteerism? Part I of the book includes charts, tables, and narrative covering the size, scope and dimensions ofthe non-profit sector. I looked at Table 2.14 and found that in March, 1990, 52 percent of males and 56 percent of females reported having volunteered within the past 12 months. That's up about 8 percentage points for each group since 1988. The same table breaks down volunteering by age, race, income, marital and employment status.

I also found, from Table 2.12, that at the average national hourly wage, volunteers donated the equivalent of $170 billion of their time to their favorite causes.

The Nonprofit Almanac provides every pertinent statistic anyone could want on charitable giving -- by state, race, religion, type of institution, and so on. The book also contains table after table on how charitable groups spend their money.

Interspersed among the tables and figures is some surprisingly readable and interesting text about non-profits.

I don't want to give the impression that it's the kind of book you can't put down. But for researchers,reporters, strategic planners and others interested in the non-profit sector, the Nonprofit Almanac is a gold mine of information -- and well worth the $50 investment.

On another front, Baltimore's Lester M. Salamon has just had his book, "America's Nonprofit Sector: A Primer" ($14.95) published by The Foundation Center (79 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y, 10003; 800-424-9836).

Few people know as much about -- or could write as well about -- non-profits as Salamon, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and director of its Institute for Policy Studies. The book contains a wealth of valuable information.

As Salamon says in the introduction, "the purpose of this primer is to overcome [the] widespread lack of knowledge about America's nonprofit sector and the role it plays in our social welfare system." To that end, the book succeeds, reflecting Salamon's wide range of experience in government and academic research.

Also chock full of figures and tables, Salamon's book starts with an overview of non-profits in this country. He then compares the influence of the non-profit sector to that of government. As he has done in other works, Salamon makes a strong case for the vital work of non-profits in the social economy of our nation, including a chapter that traces historical roots and examines current trends.

I frequently consult Salamon's work for insight into the non-profit sector. This book is no exception. In fact, I used it to prepare my talk on future trends for the Lung Association meeting.

One of Salamon's themes, developed over several works, is that the non-profit sector is much more complex, robust, and critical to our nation, both socially and economically, than is immediately apparent. This primer does a good job of painting that sector with broad brush strokes, so the reader comes away with an excellent overview, supported by a comprehensive analysis.

As a starter, I would recommend the book as required reading for anyone who is in public office, or is contemplating running for it. Beyond that, government officials, college students, non-profit executives, and corporate officers would do well to have this guide on their bookshelves.

(Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at 7 Bathon Circle, Elkton, Md., 21921; [410] 392-3160.)

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