Keeping Things in Perspective

Last week the Georgia Center for Nonprofits released the results of a survey that indicated that 25 percent of nonprofit organizations in Atlanta reported that donations were down in the first half of 2009.  While that is certainly not good news for the sector and clearly there are organizations who are struggling to meet their budgeted expenses, we do need to look at those numbers within the context of the global recession that we are all experiencing.

What do you think would be the results of such a survey in the for-profit sector, if a random sampling of businesses were asked if top line revenue had declined in the first half of 2009?  Do you think more than 25% of for profit businesses would report that revenues were down?  I certainly do.  In fact, it would not surprise me if the number were in the 80 – 90% range.

Another interesting fact is that, according to the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University, in every single year – recession or not – some percentage of nonprofits report raising less money than they did in the previous year.  I don’t know what percentage report donations down, on average, in a “normal” year.  But, I know from the COP that it is not zero.  So the 25% does not represent an increase of 25% – it may represent no increase.  Without some standard to put this in proper perspective we don’t know what number means.

We have reached the point that most people (economists and the “man on the street”) feel that the worst of this recession is behind us.  We now need to begin to look positively toward the future.

I, for one, find it remarkable and encouraging that ONLY 25% of nonprofits report donations down during the worst economic six months since the great depression.  Imagine how quickly we can chip away at that 25% in the second half of the year if the stock market continues to climb, economic indicators continue to rise and consumer confidence goes up.

Likewise, I found it amazing that Giving USA reported that total giving in the US declined only 2% in 2008 as compared to 2007.  As I’ve said before, ask you friends is the housing, auto and banking industries how happy they would be if there sectors had declined only 2% last year.  Ecstatic I bet.

History tells us that giving recovers rapidly as the nation comes out of a recession and we can all get there if we keep things in the proper perspective.