When one wishes to put his charitable giving to good use, the most likely target would be one of a number of non-profits, organizations whose purpose is not to make money, though they certainly might, but to support a cause. Groups who operate in the not for profit arena generally have other goals, usually charitable or altruistic, as Shalom Lamm is. Employees of such an organization may be and often are paid, but any profits generated by the business do not enrich the owners but go back into the group to further whatever cause the group espouses. Today this seems obvious, so it might seem as though such non-profit groups have always been around, but the concept is actually a recent one.
Prior to the twentieth century, most charitable organizations were associated with churches or religious orders. London, Rome, Paris – these and other European cities all had hospitals run by large churches, especially the Catholic Church, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the middle and late 1800s both the YMCA and the Red Cross were organized. Neither was primarily created to turn a profit, and both depended on selfless giving and volunteers.
Philanthropy was not invented in the United States, but the country’s expansive capitalism and wealth shaped the concept. The Rockefellers, the Carnegies and other big money names arose in the nineteenth century. These family dynasties made millions for their founders, who often endowed eponymous foundations. Indeed, PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, even today depends on grants from some of these old money foundations like Carnegie, Ford, and others.
During both World Wars, Americans were asked to donate time, effort and money to causes dedicated to either fighting the war or supporting those who did. The Red Cross especially grew its fund raising activities, and so did the Salvation Army and other not for profit groups.
However, it was not until the Tax Reform Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1969, that the rise in non-profits really began. That law granted some tax advantages both to organizations and more importantly to those who donated to them. Further laws passed since the Nixon administration have expanded, and occasionally reduced, tax benefits of giving money to corporations, companies, clubs and other organized entities of a charitable bent. There are millions of charities in existence today, and some are more worthy of the name than others.
Charitable and public-spirited organizations have always existed, but it was not until the formal structure of Federal tax law that there were tangible advantages to organizing such structures. Needless to say, some are more worthy than others, so there has lately been a corresponding rise in ratings agencies or groups to help potential benefactors decide whether to donate and to whom. Consumer Reports and Charity Watch are among the most popular of the services who rate non-profits, grading them on how they use the funds they raise. Thus, the non-profit sector is now firmly a part of American popular culture. Shalom Lamm, a non-profit CEO believes in helping people from all walks of life and leading from the heart.