The United States capital was surrounded by about 100,000 anti-war protesters on January 27, 2007. The event was sponsored by United for Peace, which was very effective in bringing together religious groups, labor unions, political parties, celebrities, parents of soldiers, schools, veteran organizations, environmental groups, and a variety of special interests groups to create a cohesive event with a clear message to end the war in Iraq. During the march, I was surrounded by a sea of chants and banners, each with a different flavor, yet a shared vision of peace. Numerous groups used a variety of theatrical tactics to have their voice heard. I caught a glimpse of Uncle Sam walked around on stilts with a Pinocchio nose, human statues creating a visual representation of the casualties of the war, and a black hooded man with an oil gun. A group of grannies sang “An Urge to Surge,” mocking Bush’s war tactics, showing how hip senior citizens can be. I struggled to keep up with a woman who is the spokeswoman of four senior groups and has been spending her retirement traveling around the country to voice the needs of seniors.
Such collaborations demonstrate some of the unbelievable achievements of non-profit organizations to bring diverse audiences and interests together and stunning the public when alliances are announced. Some examples of these include the recent alliance between the Sierra Club and the United Steel Workers, Chiquita teaming up with the Rainforest Alliance, and the WWF and Unilever working together to form the Marine Stewardship Counsel.
Globally, non-profit organizations are growing in power. Lester Salamon, Director of the Center for Civil Society at John Hopkins University says that the world is experiencing a significant rise in the non-profit sector, which is unprecedented in recent history. Global non-profit expenditures are thought to be over $1 trillion.
The rise of this sector can escalate if they are able to continue to bring together diverse groups around a common cause, thus enhancing their power. The potential impacts on government, business, and civil society are endless when grandmas, laborers, pink clad feminists, history teachers, Jews, and Socialists unite.