The US has over 1.3 million nonprofit organizations nationwide and nearly 48,000 of them are in the Chicago metropolitan area. These organizations provide a variety of services that benefit members of a community in different ways.
Some of Chicago’s largest nonprofits include:
- Lions Club International
- Chicago Greater Food Depository
- Gigi’s Playhouse
- Safe Humane Chicago
- YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
- Radiological Society of North America
- Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation
But there are also other, smaller nonprofits that you may never have heard of in the Chicago area. All of them were created to fill a need that wasn’t being fulfilled anywhere else.
Nonprofits of all sizes are important for the different services they provide. Some provide food and other services to the homeless in a small city or area, such as Share Your Soles, providing gently used shoes to those who need them.
Deborah’s Place offers shelter to homeless women and helps them transition out of homelessness. Some seek to educate, such as Chicago Books To Women In Prison, providing used books to incarcerated women in over 40 states. Others may be a large medical center providing lifesaving treatments, such as the National Kidney Foundation or the American Brain Tumor Association.
Nonprofits can be of any size, as long as they have a mission to work for the betterment of their community. Chicago’s many nonprofits cover a wealth of needs that are important to the people who depend on them.
What A Nonprofit Does
A nonprofit provides a way for people to work together for the common good. These organizations provide services that might otherwise not be available to those who need it. They are private organizations that provide services, resources, and goods to a community.
Nonprofits are most often charitable organizations that have a specific mission. These businesses are usually started by a person or group who sees a need and finds a way to provide it.
In order to be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the organization must have a purpose of:
- Prevention of cruelty to children or animals
- Promote competition in amateur sports
- Public safety testing
The nonprofit must also demonstrate that it works for the public interest and offers services like:
- Assistance to those who are underprivileged
- Defending human and civil rights
- Eliminating prejudice and discrimination
- The advancement of education, science, or religion
Nonprofits are not allowed to participate in any political activity or have any political expenditures.
One of the hallmarks of a nonprofit is that they can react quickly when they are needed and are also quicker than government intervention. There is no committee meeting or vote, and they are able to mobilize right away to offer assistance where needed. A nonprofit can offer help to people when it’s not available anywhere else.
One example of a nonprofit that does this is Mercy Chefs. This food-based nonprofit was founded by chef and New Orleans native Gary LeBlanc in 2006 after seeing the response to Hurricane Katrina. A veteran of the hospitality industry, he was unhappy with the food given to victims of the disaster and its aftermath. He realized that those affected by disasters would benefit greatly from a hot meal, and set out to make it a reality.
Now based in Portsmouth, VA, Mercy Chefs takes its professional chefs, mobile kitchens, and refrigerated trailers directly into disaster areas around the country. The group partners with churches and other organizations in the affected area to distribute meals. Volunteers cook and serve hot meals to those affected by a disaster as well as volunteers and first responders. Their motto is, “Just go and feed people.”
In addition, Mercy Chefs also does community outreach in five communities offering meals where they are needed. They also have permanent kitchens in several communities to assist with nutritional meals for the homeless and other at-risk communities. Their clean water initiative includes purification systems for villages in seven countries that would otherwise not have any.
James Provenza—Chicago’s Nonprofit Attorney
We have over 20 years of experience helping nonprofit startups in the Chicago area with all of their legal matters. Along with comprehensive knowledge of Illinois nonprofit law as well as best practices for growing nonprofits, Attorney James C. Provenza can ensure that all of your legal requirements are done correctly. Contact our office at (847) 729-3939 today, or use our online contact form. We look forward to helping ensure that your organization is successful.