The Drumbeat of Bad News in the Nonprofit and Philanthropy Sector and A Couple of Glimmers of Hope

BlogHer Original Post

In the nonprofit and philanthropy world, like the economy in general, the outlook for 2009 is rather bleak.   A group of nonprofit and philanthropy have offered their views on the impact of the economy on the nonprofit sector and it isn't rosy.  Lucy Bernholz says:

"Two areas of potential impact of the crisis concern me. First, will fear about the future make people turn away from community, look for ‘others’ to blame, and be divisive and destructive to civil society? Certainly history can provide plenty of examples of this type of civil withering. We can also find examples in which uncertainty brings out the best in people. Have we learned anything about fostering the latter and avoiding the former? Second, while individual philanthropic impulses always continue, what will happen to the ‘business of giving’ in view of the scale of current uncertainty? Assumptions about large-scale transfers of wealth have to be re-examined, as plans for retirement, medical care and family financial security are radically realigned. We also don’t know whether and how online giving marketplaces, social enterprise, social investing and other innovations born in good times will stand a downturn, short or prolonged, and how those changes will ripple across longer-standing practices."

There are many blog posts on the theme of 10 Ways for Nonprofits to Cut Costs and The Nonprofit Hard Times Survival Guide.. Some are focusing on capacity building and providing last minute advice on getting the most out of the current giving season.  Network for Good has recently released a new e-book called "The 2008 Online Fundraising Survival Guide: 12 Winning Strategies to survive and Thrive in a Down Economy"  (a terrific reframing of best practices advice for online fundraising and perhaps fear-driven adoption of these practices will be in the works.)

Okay, if I start to round up and summarize everything else that's out there on the economy, I'm going to get so horribly depressed I won't finish this blog post.   I'm not in denial (at least I don't think so and sure).   Yes, I'm scared like everyone else is, but I'm always to find the bright side, the one glimmer of hope.

A recent post
on Fundraising123 shows that in a limited sample of some nonprofits,
online giving is actually up.  And while, this was some hard to come by
good news, the author warns nonprofits not to get too complacent about
online fundraising and that economy is probably going to get worse.

So, what else can be done?

The GiveList is great idea from Allison Fine and Marnie Webb
that is encouraging conversation and other ways to give contributions
that aren't cash to charitable causes.  The idea is that even if times
are bad, you don't have to be stingy.  In the last 24 hours since the
project launched, there's been a firehose of ideas for giving that don't require getting out your checkbook or credit card and cringing.   

Don't
get me wrong - giving money to charitable causes is a good thing - but
if you looking into your wallet makes you want to cry, there are
alternatives.  Need some inspiration?   Marnie has summarized a list of the ideas from yesterday and here's a few gems from the last few hours:

  • Cybersibek: Animal shelters always
    need old blankets/comforters. Shelters R being overwhelmed because
    people R losing homes/can't afford pets
    .
  • ALSofGNY: Offer to make up Pre-Addressed, Stamped Envelopes/Cards for people with disabilities for them to send out for the holidays.
  • ChildrensHealth: Children's hospitals always need toys this time of year. Don't wait till the last minute - it takes time to sort, distribute.
  • RedCross: Send a free, downloadable holiday card to a hero http://www.redcross.org/holidaymail

Network for Good have launched a new gift-giving program. Individuals and corporations can give a tax-deductible Good Card
in lieu of (or in addition to) a holiday present. The recipient can
then choose where the gift money goes, among any of Network for Good's
1.5 million client organizations.

And maybe you want to take things into your own hands and do something.   Mom Advice did that earlier this fall and her results have nothing less than spectacular.

And finally, if you're short on cash and you're a blogger, you can always write about an important issue.  Here's one for you.  Be A Voice for Darfur is a petition and awareness campaign designed to bring attention to the appalling genocide in Darfur.   Qui Diaz would love it if you could take a few mintues to blog about it, sign the petition, join the group on Facebook and share with everyone you know.

The coming year is going to be a difficult one for everyone, especially nonprofits.  So, try to open your heart and give something -whether cash, your time, or an alternative.   Unselfish giving is the remedy for hard times. 

What will you do to give to charity this season?

Beth Kanter, BlogHer CE for Nonprofits and Social Change, writes Beth's Blog.

Follow BlogHer on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/BlogHer-28615

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