REMINDER: Nonprofit organizations need our help now more than ever
Animal welfare organizations.
Social justice warriors.
Health and human services providers.
Medical research causes.
These groups and others like them make up the miraculous quilt we call the nonprofit sector. Every day, while the rest of us go through our daily routines, the people who staff these organizations are gutting it out, working hard to make the world a better place. And the nonsensical reality of our capitalist society is that we force them to do it with almost laughably scant resources. The fact is, the way we think about how we fund these heroes among us and the organizations they work for is completely wrong.
As fundraiser Dan Pallotta points out so eloquently, nonprofits work with one hand tied behind their back when it comes to competition for dollars:
- They struggle to attract rock star leadership because, in western society, there is no financial incentive to help others with your talents unless it’s for a for-profit enterprise.
- Our culture discourages nonprofits from advertising and taking risks to raise money even though the for-profit sector has proven over and over again that that is how it is done successfully. Just ask any graduate of a reputable MBA program.
- If they spend money on “overhead” to invest in their future success and to build their organization, they are labeled as grifters and charlatans, working to self-enrich themselves with YOUR charitable donations.
But, let’s face it: Nonprofits are doing the hard work we desperately need during this second Gilded Age when the rich are becoming massively more wealthy and those at the bottom of our economic system are becoming more and more impoverished. Unfortunately, because they are at such a disadvantage relative to the for-profit sector, they are largely beholden to individual donors and private foundations. They have to constantly be innovative and have NEW! and FRESH! ideas and approaches just to keep the funding trickling in. But they have to do it without the resources they need to do it effectively.
The worst part of this is that, during times of crisis or economic instability — like now as we grapple with a global pandemic — when people are in a state of fear about their wellbeing and livelihood, they stop donating to the very groups who we need the most. In order to solve societies most intractable problems, we need to be elevating, supporting, and donating to these groups more than ever before and that’s simply not happening. In fact, the opposite is true.
I was shocked to learn recently that just over 10% of our workforce works for a nonprofit organization. Because we starve nonprofits, these workers are generally massively underpaid while they work in some of the most emotionally challenging jobs in society. So, not only are the critical services that nonprofits provide at risk, the livelihoods of a tenth of friends and neighbors are equally threatened.
In the coming days, nearly all of us will be receiving a stimulus check from the federal government. I hope you’ll join me and consider donating at least a portion of that money to a nonprofit whose work you value. That money will be instantly put back into the economy and you’ll be helping to keep these essential groups in our society operational at a time when the work they do is so crucially important.