Civic, Social, and Fraternal Associations

SIC 8641

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers membership organizations engaged in civic, social, or fraternal activities, excluding homeowner groups primarily associated with property management and membership sports and recreation clubs, which are classified elsewhere.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28,310 organizations were classified as "civic and social organizations" in the early 2010s, although broader estimates numbered establishments in this classification at approximately 90,000. They included local, national, and international nonprofit organizations, most of which were centered on a conception of altruism. The classification also included civic and fraternal associations, parent-teacher associations, singing societies, taxpayer's associations, veteran's organizations, youth groups, alumni associations, and booster clubs. The Internet has been instrumental in the establishment of new types of social organizations, including scores of activist groups, many of which are devoted to social, environmental, and political causes. Their online networks facilitate organizing, letter-writing, fund-raising campaigns, and information sharing.

Civic and social associations are classified as tax-exempt corporations and are spared from federal, state, and local tax laws. They are usually not required to publish their income, expenses, or membership information. Most organizations rely primarily on volunteers to run their programs, and larger associations employ full-time administrative and management workers. Census Bureau figures showed almost 250,000 people employed in the industry in 2010.

Nonprofit associations generate income through dues, fund-raisers, and interest from investment funds, or by managing endowments. In addition, some associations employ nonprofit fund-raising firms. These companies usually work on a flat-fee basis and utilize direct marketing techniques to raise money, such as telephone and mail solicitation.

Although the industry is comprised primarily of community groups, some of the largest organizations stand out as major U.S. institutions. These include the Freemasons, Boy Scouts, American Legion, YMCA, and United Way. In the early 2010s, some organizations of this type were finding new strength, while others were concerned with a drop in membership. About 25 percent of all adults volunteer for a nonprofit organization of some sort.

Among service clubs that were making news as major philanthropic organizations in the late 2000s were the Rotary International, Kiwanis International, and Lions Clubs. All three groups were involved in international campaigns to treat and prevent disease. In 2007-2008, Rotary contributed $126.7 million--bringing its cumulative total to over $757 million--and thousands of volunteers to combat polio. Nearly two-thirds of Kiwanis devoted more than 500 volunteer hours annually. By 2009, the Kiwanis had raised more than $80 million to reduce cases of iodine deficiency, which causes mental retardation. By 2009, the Lions Clubs, famous for efforts to prevent blindness, had recycled and distributed 3 million pairs of eyeglasses.

One of the largest fraternal organizations in the world, freemasonry promotes public service and belief in the brotherhood of all men under a single God. Its basis and membership, however, remain predominantly Christian. According to the Masonic Service Association, there were about 4 million Freemasons worldwide in 2012; the United States was home to just over 1.4 million. Although this is a significant number, it was the lowest recorded number in the organization's history. Membership numbers declined dramatically from the high of approximately 4.1 million in 1959. Between 1987 and 1997, membership was reduced 750,000 to 2 million members. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas have the most members, with over 100,000 in each state, while Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii had the lowest membership, with fewer than 3,000 in each state.

The physical foundation of Freemasonry is the lodge, which exists under a charter issued by the Grand Lodge. Lodges are informally linked and offer different service and achievement programs. All lodges offer three basic degrees that are achieved through service and learning: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. Groups of advanced Masons confer as many as 30 additional degrees.

Freemasonry is believed to have evolved from medieval guilds of stonemasons. The first formal lodge was formed in London in 1717, and the first U.S. lodge was created in Philadelphia in 1730. Freemasons have endured religious and political criticism from various churches. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, originally claimed that Freemasonry was a religion and secret organization and banned membership for Catholics, but this was overturned in 1983. In the later part of the twentieth century, the Freemasons relaxed the aura of secrecy that historically surrounded the organization in efforts to replenish membership ranks and to counter what they perceived as the widespread misconceptions about their organization among the general public.

In an effort to expand their social and charitable role, Freemasons formed several other groups that are recognized as among the largest U.S. civic organizations. The largest of these is the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, which are generally referred to as Shriners. Likewise, children's groups include DeMolay for boys, and the Order of Job's Daughters and the Order of Rainbow for girls. Famous historical figures that were Freemasons include Benjamin Franklin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Henry Ford, Irving Berlin, Louis Armstrong, and Douglas MacArthur, along with George Washington and several other U.S. presidents.

Boy Scouts.
One of the largest civic organizations in the world, the Boy Scouts is also the largest youth group, with more than 115 million young males involved with the organization since its inception. Membership peaked at 4.8 million in 1972. In 2011 membership included 2.8 million youth and 1.0 million adult workers. The organization's headquarters in Irving, Texas, has a staff of about 500.

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts works to develop character, citizenship, and physical and mental fitness. It stresses duty to God, country, others, and self. The official Boy Scout slogan is "Do a good turn daily," and the motto is "Be prepared." Although the organization is nonsectarian, scouts must acknowledge a duty to God in the scout oath.

A boy is admitted to scouting under the supervision of adult volunteer leaders. Scout troops consist of patrols, which are made up of five to eight boys. Patrol leaders and troop leaders are elected. As a scout progresses in age and rank, his role becomes increasingly self-governing, and he develops leadership skills through interaction with other scouts. Character and achievement are nurtured through community service, outdoor activities, and the attainment of merit badges, which are earned by studying and passing tests on certain subjects.

Many Boy Scouts are introduced to scouting through the Tiger Cub Scouts, for boys aged 7, and the Cub Scouts, for boys between the ages of 8 and 10. In addition, the Girl Scouts acts as a sister organization and offers activities and goals similar to the Boy Scouts. The Girl Scouts of America have embarked on a campaign to promote itself as responsive to contemporary changes in U.S. society that affect girls, with programs focused on sports, science, and the eradication of violence toward youth. Both boys and girls can continue scouting activities through the Explorers, an organization for members aged 14 to 20.

The Boy Scouts was started in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell, a British officer. After writing a book for adults about scouting, Powell received such a demand for his book that he decided to write Scouting for Boys. This manual became the primer for his Boy Scouts organization. The Boy Scouts of America was formed in 1910.

The Boy Scouts came under attack in the early 1990s for refusing to admit atheists and homosexuals as scouts and scoutmasters. Levi Strauss, BankAmerica, and Wells Fargo halted their donations in reaction to the group's ban on homosexuals. President Clinton became the first U.S. president in recent history to not address the national Jamboree or send his vice-president. In addition, the city of Chicago canceled its sponsorship of the group. Nevertheless, the organization prevailed in several lawsuits filed by nonmembers for refusing to admit atheists, claiming that as a private organization, it is free to establish its own membership criteria. Critics often noted, however, that the group is sponsored by public schools and municipal organizations and should be subject to anti-discrimination provisions. In other countries, the theological portion of the oath has been either eliminated or made optional. Lawsuits and controversy continued into the late 1990s. In 1999, New Jersey struck down the ban on homosexuals after four other states had upheld it. The Supreme Court eventually ruled early in the twenty-first century that the Boy Scouts' denial of leadership to homosexuals did not amount to a constitutional violation.

The highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts is Eagle Scout. Many of the nation's most successful leaders hold this distinction, including astronauts, former presidents, business leaders, and creators. Former President Gerald Ford, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, movie director and producer Steven Spielberg, and entrepreneur and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot were all Eagle Scouts. The 111th Congress of the United States boasted 22 Eagle Scouts, and 211 members had participated in scouting during their lives. Although the Boy Scouts continued to be a highly active and vibrant organization in many U.S. communities, the number of boys enrolling in the program declined throughout the 1990s and 2000s, from 4.25 million in 1989 to 2.8 million in 2011.

American Legion.
The American Legion is the largest private U.S. organization for veterans. It is composed of veterans from both world wars and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Legion is concerned primarily with the social and political interests of veterans and also is the sponsor of numerous community and charitable programs, such as the Family Support Network. This program was launched in 1990 for the Persian Gulf War troops and remains active for other troops stationed around the world. Its four stated major areas of focus are rehabilitation of veterans through medical and educational benefits; national security; child welfare; and Americanism. The organization strongly promotes respect for the U.S. flag and drafted the U.S. Flag Code in 1923, which establishes guidelines for the proper uses and treatment of the flag. The American Legion also works to fund and promote other civic associations included in this industry group, such as the Boy Scouts.

The American Legion in 2012 represented 2.4 million male and female members in nearly 14,000 posts worldwide. Membership is contingent upon performance of honorable service in the U.S. armed forces. The Legion's sister organization, the American Legion Auxiliary, founded in 1920, had nearly 1 million members in 10,500 communities in 2012. Its participants are women who are close relatives of Legionnaires or of deceased veterans and women who have served in the armed forces during peacetime. The Sons of the American Legion includes male descendants of Legionnaires and deceased veterans. In 2012, there were more than 300,000 members in the Sons of the American Legion.

Because of its membership size and the percentage of its members that are registered to vote, the American Legion has constituted a powerful political block. It has served as a loud voice for veterans' rights and military preparedness. It has been a leading proponent of legislation against desecration of the U.S. Flag since the 1960s. It has helped veterans receive proper medical care for illnesses that may be related to wartime environments, such as nerve gas during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In the 1990s, the Legion campaigned to increase hospital coverage funded by the Department of Veterans' Affairs to include veterans' dependents. In the late 2000s, the Legion successfully lobbied the Senate to pass the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009, which provides assistance to caregivers of severely injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It also includes provisions for health care for women veterans, dental insurance for certain veterans and their families, and mental health care services for veterans.

The Y.
In 2010 the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) rebranded itself as "the Y" and remained one of the largest youth associations in the world. With more than 2,600 YMCAs in 2012, it is also the largest non-profit community service organization in the United States. The YMCA is a network of nonsectarian organizations that offer athletic, recreational, cultural, educational, and health-related services to their members and local communities. YMCAs provide vocational instruction, organize sports programs, offer civic training, give night classes, and host social events. YMCAs make their facilities available to community groups and rent cafeterias and rooms to transients and local residents.

The YMCA was founded in England in 1844, and the first YMCA in the United States was started in Boston in 1851. The World Alliance of YMCAs is headquartered in Switzerland, serving more than 45 million youth and families in 124 countries. There were approximately 21 million members in the United States in 2012, up from 14.5 million in 1995. They rely on nearly 550,000 volunteer program leaders and 20,000 full-time staff and have a combined revenue of over $5 billion, drawn from fees for YMCA programs, membership dues, charitable contributions, and resident fees.

The YMCA�s sister organization, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), was formed in 1855 to meet young women's physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs. However, after World War II, women and girls were admitted to the YMCA as well. In 2012, some 300 communities were also served by YWCA associations, benefiting more than 2 million participants. About 1,300 individual locations were open nationwide. The YWCA provides shelter for women and their families, and spearheads campaigns for domestic-violence prevention. Serving some 700,000 women and children each year, the YWCA is the largest provider of domestic violence programs and shelters in the country. It also is the largest nonprofit child care provider. The YWCA has programs in 120 countries and serves over 25 million women and children worldwide.

United Way.
Another of the largest organizations in this industry is the United Way, which is mainly a fund-raising organization that gives money to national and community service groups. In 2012, it was the world's largest nonprofit fundraising organization. The United Way is present in 45 countries, has over 300,000 volunteers, and raises more than $5 billion annually, providing money to more than 50,000 agencies meeting health and human services needs. In 2012, there were about 1,800 local United Way agencies.

Other Groups.
The Knights of Columbus is a U.S. fraternal order of Roman Catholic men promoting itself as "the strong right arm of the Church." It was founded in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, a Connecticut priest. Best known for charity work within communities, it provides social activities, insurance, and other benefits for its members. It also sponsors athletic events, contributes to various charitable and educational projects, and works to promote Catholic interests. The group had approximately 1.8 million members in more than 14,000 local councils throughout the Americas in 2012.

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