The nonprofit incorporation of America, 1860-1932
This project is an examination of the formation of corporatized charitable organizations from 1860-1932. Focusing on six organizations--the United States Sanitary Commission, the Freedmen's Bureau, the Peabody Foundation, the Slater Fund, the American National Red Cross, and the Young Men's Christian Association--it encourages scholars to view large-scale charities as more than good works, instead acknowledging the inherently corporate nature of nonprofit corporations. This study makes three arguments. First, the experience of the Civil War produced two possible paths to a modern civil society, with the model of independent organizations winning out over direct government intervention. Second, into the void left by the federal government's exit came private foundations, which desired to operate in a corporate manner, while expecting a corporate culture among those receiving their funds. This led to the corporatization of organizations that sought legitimacy in the eyes of major donors. Third, with organizations becoming corporatized, they were welcomed into the government-big business-association alliance that became the basis for governing in lieu of direct federal intervention. A system which was exposed as not up to the task presented by the Great Depression as it failed to respond appropriately to a drought in Arkansas in 1932.
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