What is the Nonprofit Industry/Sector?

Nonprofit, not-for-profit, or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate to fulfill a mission, to benefit the community, and to serve the public. They are overseen by volunteer boards of directors and are financed by grants and donations. Nonprofits are diverse in their missions and in the communities they serve. Some nonprofits operate to serve a member base while others operate to benefit the general public. In general, there are four main types of nonprofits:

  1.  Direct service providers – those that provide services to their constituents
  2. Support providers – those that provide support and assistance to other nonprofit organizations
  3. Funders – those that provide financial support to other nonprofits, and 
  4. Advocacy organizations – those that shape public policy around an issue.

Major Nonprofit Examples:

  • Education
  • Health care membership
  • Professional organizations,
  • Legal services, 
  • Research, urban planning
  • Community development
  • Civil rights,
  • Social advocacy
  • Human rights
  • Environmental conservation

Nonprofit’s Environmental Impact

Unfortunately, progress by the EPA regarding environmental justice has been inconsistent. While the agency has developed an Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool for visualizing the impacts of pollution, it has struggled to comprehensively address environmental justice, especially as it relates to civil rights.

NPOs often rely on the government for access to resources such as funding and networks. Government assistance to NPOs can diminish their autonomy, flexibility, and responsiveness, damaging the very characteristics that administrators seek to promote by funding them. The opportunities for funding mean that many nonprofit agencies adjust their behavior, including their organizational goals and mission, depending on the priorities of the government funding agencies.

How Do Nonprofits Affect Environmental Justice?

The Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Environmental justice is the intersection between both social justice and environmentalism, where the inequality of who is being impacted is also considered. 

Unfairly, vulnerable communities pay the highest price for environmental damage caused by polluters. Sometimes people forget that at the heart of environmental impact are real people and their livelihoods. Many communities don’t have the luxury of a physical barrier between them and environmental hazards. Unfortunately, low-income and communities of color are already disproportionately impacted by the impacts of climate change and this will only continue without political action and protection.

If you’d like to get involved and help nonprofits and organizations fight to keep marginalized communities safe, below are 10 amazing resources to connect with, donate to, and follow along with that are making real change across the country.

What Can You Do to Support the Environment?

  • Support environmental nonprofits!
    • As they are equipped with the much-needed background research, social networks, know-how, and action plan to fully serve their missions, and often they’re able to tackle issues that social enterprises and individual votes may not be able to.
    • However, since their operations run on donations and fundraisers, contributing financially and getting involved in whichever ways we are able to can really help to make a difference.
  • Shifting our lifestyle and consumer choices. 
  • Volunteer for a non-profit that you believe in and creates a healthier planet.

Move Forward to Path 2

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