Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

October 14, 2013

What is philanthropy's role in the shutdown?

Source: Wikipedia Commons/Vinoth Chandar

This article originally appeared in the A.J. Fletcher Foundation's blog.
Damon Circosta and Shannon Ritchie

We’re now on day 14 of the government shutdown, and things just got real in NC. With families starting to feel the effects of the crisis, the nonprofit community struggles to meet their needs and the organization’s funders and supporters are left asking, what now?
The hardest hit victims of this crisis are children. WIC benefits were threatened until yesterday for almost 264,000 women, infants, and young children though thankfully temporary funding was secured so they don’t need to rely on food banks. Child care subsidies are starting to run out, leaving tens of thousands of families unable to afford child care by the end of this month (likely leading to many lost jobs for parents). We also learned from our partner Covenant with NC Children that NC DHHS has issued a “stop work order” to contractors funded by federal block grants – affecting a whole host of child welfare services.

It’s all so unfair, isn’t it?
In this time of need, foundations, private companies, and individuals have stepped in to help. Examples include:
These stories make headlines, but support from private donors is a drop in the bucket compared to the support low-income families receive from the government. The WIC program alone has a $205 million annual budget in NC.
As a charitable foundation that provides support to the nonprofit community in NC, it’s hard to watch this go down and not do something. I’m sure the other organizations I mentioned, among many others, feel similarly compelled which is what makes them act. But our work at Fletcher Foundation is to support big, innovative ideas, putting money behind them to watch them grow and improve the lives of families and communities in the state. The government’s work is to support taxpayer’s interests which include caring for our poor and vulnerable citizens – giving them money for food, subsidies for childcare assistance to help them work, etc.
Make no mistake, we’re not chastising organizations and individuals who are pitching in and doing what we pay our government to do on our behalf. We get it and many people are grateful for their generosity. But we do ourselves a great disservice if we lead the public to believe the private sector can make a difference in this mess. As the burden shifts the public implies, “Oh, let’s look to private foundations and companies to foot the bill for these services we desperately need,” but they lack the understanding of just how vast the gaps are. The only entities that can make a difference are our federal and state governments, and perhaps our energy, time, and resources, are best served letting them know how our kids are hurting because of their inability to fund the services they greatly rely on.
Fletcher Foundation has created a site to collect stories, photos, and videos from our grantees and community about how the government shutdown is hurting kids in NC. In working with our partners, we hope to shed light on how desperate this situation is for so many and share with our elected officials in Washington as they make decisions that can change course for us here in North Carolina. We’d love to hear from you.

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