Inside Philanthropy

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

August 11, 2008

Tough times create opportunity for nonprofits

The economy is hurting. Soaring energy costs are driving up the cost of doing business. Candidates hunting for campaign contributions are strong-arming donors. And terrorism and the Iraq war are breeding fear and uncertainty about the future.

For charities, already struggling to meet rising demand for services with limited resources, the convergence of these growing pressures and their potential impact on giving can breed despair.

But nonprofits need to move beyond gloom and doom, and the sense of entitlement to which too many of them fall prey, and focus on doing what it takes to build their organizational capacity.

Advancing their mission effectively will require being smarter about running their businesses, delivering services, generating earned and contributed income, advocating for change, forming partnerships that work, and working to help shape the public policies underlying the symptoms and causes of the social problems they exist to address.

Those changes are needed because givers, funders, volunteers, board members and prospective partners expect nonprofits to be more accountable and to increase their effectiveness and impact.

The charitable marketplace is huge, growing fast and in need of clear-headed thinking and practical, enterprising ideas to make it be as good as it can be.

Tough economic times can be a catalyst for fostering new strategies to create more productive and collaborative models for delivering services and generating the resources nonprofits need to take on the urgent social problems our communities face.


  • At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    These tough times do require nonprofits to run their businesses more effectively. An analysis of the programs and services will tell if they are having an impact, where nonprofits’ programs and services overlap and/or are competitive with other agencies, and where nonprofits should expand or scale back their efforts.

    Instead of going with the uneven flow of donations, a little strategic planning can go a long way in making sure nonprofits head in the proper direction and know how to get there.

    One key to staying on track is a clear communication of the nonprofit’s mission and vision. The mission and vision need to be understood across the entire organization. Likewise, all other stakeholders, particularly the donors, need to know and understand what the organization wants to accomplish and how it will do so with their assistance.

    The communication issue is critical in building relationships with donors. While donors should expect accountability, nonprofits should expect donors to stay involved.

    Strong donor relationships today lead to planned giving and intergenerational relationships tomorrow. Relationship management plays a major role in long term strategy. Tough times run in cycles, but endowments created from planned gifts allow nonprofits to weather downward swings in donations.


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