The term "progressive" encompasses a wide range of viewpoints, and it is therefore difficult to pin down an exact definition of what a progressive organization might be. Generally, progressive organizations fall along the left side of the political spectrum and might be described as "liberal," "left wing" or even "humanistic." Organizations as varied as centrist health care reform advocates and socialist parties may describe themselves as progressive.
Progressive organizations are dedicated to societal change--whether that be health care reform, green alternatives or increased access to the democratic process. Although it is difficult to clearly define what a "progressive" organization might be, as the umbrella term encompasses so many organizations, these organizations differ from other businesses and entities in that their primary aim is to effect social change. Their business, as it were, is to make the world a better place.
Progressive organizations tend to view equity within an organization as natural and necessary, though the extent to which this may be applied obviously varies. Rather than a strict hierarchy, many progressive organizations prefer a more informal approach, with power sharing. In some instances, each member of an organization will share power equally, with all decisions made through voting. Co-ops, for example, are run with this one person-one vote principle.
Many progessive organizations use a variety of tactics to achieve their aims. A progressive business, for example, might sell only fair trade or organic goods--operating within the commercial system while still supporting progressive principles. Progressive nonprofits will craft educational programs, draft legislation, lecture and combine methods to increase effectiveness. A key difference between progressive organizations and others is a willingness to advocate protest or direct action as a means of effecting change.
Those progressive organizations with a nonprofit (501c3) status can seek funding from numerous sources. Nonprofits generally fulfill their funding needs through a mixture of donations, grants and other income generating measures. Progressive businesses are not the only organizations receiving income for providing a service, either; many successful nonprofits will generate income through training sessions, guided tours or sale of goods.
Many progressive organizations find themselves in the difficult position of operating within an economic system that may be antithetical to their purposes. A United States-based socialist organization, for example, finds itself firmly implanted into a capitalist society. These organizations will sometimes make use of mechanisms set directly at odds with their stated aims: The previously mentioned socialist organization may solicit donations from wealthy individuals to fill their coffers.