Not-for-Profit Social Services: A
The welfare state of the late 1980s is a complex social organism. Its complexity can be traced in part to its myriad functions, layers of bureaucratic structure, and the types of organizations competing for its scarce resources. The latter point is particularly important to this analysis. It is apparent from the prior chapter that the most financially dominant yet least dynamic type of organization administering welfare state funds is the public-sector agency. These agencies are a direct part of the state apparatus. Their lines of authority, legal responsibilities, and funding base are tied to the executive, judicial, or legislative branches of the state.
Another type of organization that continues to play a critical role in the development and distribution of social services is the not-for-profit, or voluntary agency. Ralph Kramer (1981) has noted that since the "colonization of what was to become the United States there have been both governmental and voluntary modes of coping with the problems of economic dislocation." Historically, the voluntary agency has represented an alternative to the provision of social services through public agencies. As Lester Salamon and his associates ( 1984) have remarked, however, "despite its importance, precious little is known about this set of organizations."
There is substantial definitional and conceptual confusion. Voluntary agencies engage in so many different and often contradictory activities that they are difficult to locate precisely on a road map of welfare state activities or functions. For the purposes of this discussion, it is important to clarify some of the fixed and variable characteristics of the voluntary agency. Only in this way can the particular interests of this inquiry be clearly situated within the far broader confines of the not-for-profit segment of the economy.
The Internal Revenue Service has defined no fewer than twenty-five types of agencies as eligible for tax-exempt or not-for-profit status.