Take Heart

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 17th, 2008 in Articles, Thoughts & Commentary

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heart  Unless this year is the exception to the rule, nonprofits should not be worrying about whether or from where their next dollar will be coming.  Relax; it will be coming.

According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (the Center), philanthropy is stronger than the stock market, social upheaval and catastrophic events.  It suffers well political turmoil, terrorism and economic havoc.  In a 2001 report, the Center said, “The total amount of giving in the United States has increased every year but one (1987) for the past 40 years.”  Think about the turmoil this country alone experienced in that forty year period:  the assassination of a President, an attorney general and a civil rights leader; rampant riots; a prolonged war and other things that some would call a war but the government prefers to label something else; two stock market plunges (I dare not use the word crash) and one stock market high; the worst terrorist attack on American soil, plus another “less serious” one and many attacks on American soil and citizens around the world, natural disasters galore, and I’ll stop now.


In a more recent look at economic trend data and philanthropy, the Center found that in 2002, when the Dow Jones Average dropped 17% and the S&P 500 Index dropped 23%, overall philanthropy actually increased by 1%.


So, this is good news.  The question that is begged here is whether these increasing dollars are allocated in the same way during the periods of calm as they are during the periods of crisis?  The crisis may not cause the dollars to shrink, but do they cause the dollars to be allocated differently?  During the tough economic times such as now, are we more likely to give our dollars to the food banks, homeless shelters and medical clinics than to the community arts centers, natural preserves and historic mansions?


Nice thing to hear, perhaps even a welcome relief.  But the real message in this is to be prepared:  insure a robust, well-diversified development strategy that is adhered to and implemented and monitored by a healthy partnership of board and staff.


The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.