mass extinctions in the nonprofit sector

Just a few years ago, the Council for Excellence in Government (CEG) and the Academy for Educational Development (AED) seemed like robust and permanent parts of the Washington scene. They occupied big pieces of real estate: a Connecticut Avenue office building for AED and a floor of offices on K Street for CEG.

They were important to me personally. CEG housed the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, the old Center for Democracy and Citizenship, the Campaign for Young Voters, and the Partnership for Trust in Government, all collaborators of mine in various ways. AED housed the National Service-Learning Partnership, the State Education Agency K-12 Service-Learning Network, and the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research–again, all partners. Their business models, as far as I could tell, were to serve as holding companies for externally funded contracts and projects.

And now they are gone. CEG closed its doors in 2009. AED is going out of business after 50 years. I received a pay check from AED as long ago as 1989 and spent so much time in CEG that I knew the men’s room passcode by heart. I think their demise is both a symptom of the very difficult environment for all nonprofits–many are hanging on by threads–and perhaps an indication that the “holding company” model doesn’t work any more.