The Pope Francis effect: Is it influencing nonprofits?

The pope's first visit to the U.S. since he assumed the role of the papacy is being met with excitement by both American Catholics and the  charities and the nonprofit sector. It seems the "Francis effect" - a term coined by heads of the U.S. Catholic Church, according to The Society of Jesus, regarding the pope's high approval numbers - is reaching leaders of secular nonprofits, too.

The enthusiasm could be due to Pope Francis' stance alongside organizations working to clean up the environment and help the homeless. So far, one well-known nonprofit is paying tribute to the head of the Catholic Church. Habitat for Humanity of Philadelphia will accept online donations in an effort to complete work on the Pope Francis House, the new home to single mother, Lisa Wilson, and her two children, the organization's website stated. 

Fighting climate change and poverty
The pontiff issued a letter to all Catholic bishops urging action to fight global warming and to protect the planet from pollution, according to Nonprofit Quarterly. Besides visiting President Obama, Pope Francis will make a stopover to Catholic Charities USA to see them combat hunger firsthand, WFTS, an ABC station in Tampa Bay, Florida, reported. 

The pontiff will attend one of the weekly free lunches the nonprofit gives to Washington, D.C. residents in need. 

According to WFTS, Catholic Charities USA assisted 8.7 million people living in poverty nationwide, spent $4.3 billion to help poor and homeless people and gave shelter and other housing services to 524,010 Americans.

A nonprofit pontiff
Tom Watson, writing an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, dubbed Pope Francis the director of the largest social service-oriented nonprofit in the world. According to Watson, the pope's messages regarding service and social justice, as well as his changes to institutions causing poverty and pollution, show how he is aligned with the nonprofit sector. The pontiff's words stress long-term reform rather than just a one-time charitable donation, Watson noted.

"The buzz around him is about as high as any person in the world," John Coequyt, director of federal and international climate campaigns at the Sierra Club, told The Chronicle of Philanthropy. "People are excited whether they are Catholic or not."

The pontiff's calls to action to address root causes of serious global problems has many nonprofits, regardless of their religious affiliation, excited and ready to join him in helping the cause.

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