When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, it wasn’t the federal government that rushed to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward to feed hungry survivors and bail out those trapped by the floodwaters. Eventually, they showed up, but not before a hoard of “regular Joe” volunteers stepped in—many traveling hundreds of miles from several states away to hand out food and blankets.
America was built on the backs of these unpaid fighters—like the local militia (“minutemen”) who stood up to the British army during the Revolutionary War and who took responsibility to defend their own freedom and care for the needs of their fellow citizens.
Today, America’s citizens are still the front-runners in combating America’s most stubborn problems. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States in 2009. That same year, public charities reported $1.41 trillion in total revenues and $1.40 trillion in total expenses. Over the past 25 years, the number of civil society organizations has more than doubled, growing at twice the rate of the business sector.