A Publication of WTVP

Underscoring the difficult economic times that continue to impact the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds alike, a recent report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted an 11-percent decline in donations to the nation’s 400 biggest charities—the largest drop on record.

The Salvation Army, the nation’s No. 2 charity after the United Way, experienced a decline of 8.4 percent. The only caveat, noted the organization’s head of community relations, was that “our Christmas was extraordinary…The American public really dug deep during the holiday season, and in the balance of the year, really cut back in what they gave to charity.”

It’s no accident that we close out the year with a look at the not-for-profit world in central Illinois and beyond. ‘Tis the season for giving, after all, and with the holiday season upon us again, our hearts are naturally more generous. But with expenses rising, more people in need of assistance, and fewer resources available, not-for-profits are continually being pressed to do more with less, just like their for-profit counterparts.

Major Evie Diaz, divisional commander of The Salvation Army’s Heartland Division, notes that the average stay at its family shelter has doubled—from 60 to 120 days—in the last two years. “We are finding that, instead of more people needing help, it’s the same people who need longer-term help,” she says. “Now we want to know how we can get them out of that cycle. How can we change and transform the community?”

This focus on greater effectiveness and a more enduring, transformational change is key to doing more with less, and it’s something that we’re hearing from nonprofits across the board. Donors want their gifts to go further, and accountability for outcomes is quickly becoming the norm. Those organizations that are unable to adapt to the new paradigm will find it increasingly more difficult to sustain themselves.

The idea of closer collaboration among not-for-profit entities is expressed by leaders on both sides of the philanthropic equation—and not just because of the down economy. “We have to be more intentional about working together,” explains Major Diaz, “because the needs are so much more complex—society is so much more complex—and no one agency can address all the needs of any one person.”

A more integrated approach to solving the broader problems of the community is a natural outgrowth of these trends. “And it’s a better way to help more people,” adds Will Ball of the Caterpillar Foundation.

There’s no doubt that the not-for-profit sector is being pushed in the right direction, but accountability can sometimes be painful. Certainly, the charitable organizations in central Illinois are proving their resilience, and here at CIBP, we take great pride in helping to increase public awareness of their noble missions, month in and month out. We have all accomplished a lot in 2010, and we look forward to doing the same in 2011. Happy Holidays! iBi