A Publication of WTVP

Just when the community needs the help of nonprofit organizations the most, they're struggling to find the means to face their largest financial challenges in years. With a struggling economy tightening contributions to an ever-increasing number of nonprofits, it's time for fundraisers and philanthropies to strengthen their roles in the community.

Many nonprofit organizations are set on doing business as usual when it's time to engage volunteers, board members, and managers to be more productive and innovative when it comes to raising the money that will allow us to thrive in the overcrowded fundraising market.

The nonprofit sector plays a major role in our national and local economies by providing services that aren't, and often can't be, delivered within the structure of the open market or by the government. With more than one million nonprofits nationally, there are just as many causes being represented. But they do share one thing in common: The majority of their financial support is from donors. Without this support, they could cease to exist. Given the diversity of nonprofits in operation, the Bureau of Economic Analysis for the U.S Department of Commerce found that in 2001, the receipts for this sector reached more than $740 billion, showing they have a larger impact on personal consumption expenditures than previously estimated.

Historically, nonprofits represent the work and dedication of grassroots groups and neighborhood movements. After all, people choose which communities they want to be part of, just as they choose what causes they want to support. It's up to charities to leverage this tradition to their advantage by providing donors and volunteers a sense of ownership. As Alexis de Tocqueville once observed, we're a "nation of associations" where we rely on our social institutions to provide solutions for problems and on individuals at the community level to drive our social decisions.

The nonprofit sector is becoming more and more important to our society and economy. If these organizations are to accomplish the work they've been charged to do, it becomes imperative to recognize the importance of collaboration and cooperation. While most nonprofits have a small amount of resources for advocacy, they do have the strength of their communities to call on for support.

As we move into a new year, several shared trends are facing nonprofit organizations, including an economy struggling to survive a downturn; strained government relations, with social service contracts being awarded to commercial companies; the need to reach donors through new and often costly technologies; the need to provide accountable results through social change; and a shift in the backgrounds of an aging donor base.

Whether a nonprofit considers this new climate to be the best or worst of times depends on how they view the concept of change. By focusing on their principal mission, diversifying their donations, utilizing new technologies, reducing their bottom lines, and collaborating with other organizations, the changes nonprofits will be making in the new year will only enrich our community's quality of life. IBI