Believing that the least government is the best government, the Reagan Administration favored, in both principle and practice, the transfer of functions to and fiscal independence of the private sector. This article provides a comparative analysis of the financial status of three major types of voluntary agency networks before and near the end of the Reagan era. Focusing on national voluntary health, child welfare league, and family service agencies, proportionate and absolute revenues, sources of income, and new income generating strategies are examined within the context of philanthropic trends and the compensatory role of state and local governments.

These agency networks fared well during the Reagan era, in large part due to the coping strategies they employed, the popularity of their programs, and effective constituent advocacy. The interests of the less popular groups and causes in this society, however, have been severely challenged.