Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Local Non-Profit Prepares For Bleak Times

It’s looking bleak out there for non-profits. Last year started with the housing market continuing to crash through the floor, wiping out many a family’s largest personal equity investment, which then dovetailed into an unparalleled economic crisis that rivals one most of us only heard about in the history books and ended with a scandalous ponzi scheme whose perpetrator single-handedly swindled some large non-profits of all their savings not to mention the other tens of billions of dollars in private investments it ate up.

2008 certainly was a year of when big events populated the economic landscape with huge storied corporations like Bears Stearn, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers and Citigroup all falling victim one after the other.

But, far down the food chain are the lowly, local non-profits, just trying to cut a small swath for themselves out of the ever-dwindling philanthropic dollars given by businesses and private donors every year. Sadly, these are the ones who need the money most when economic times get tough but see the their income stream reduced to a trickle.

In times like these that donations go down but the use of services goes up, like the organization I work for. I’m the Director of Communications for The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter. My Chapter provides crucial services like equipment loan programs and support groups to ALS patients and their families. They also provide services for caregivers, information about benefits, seminars and they manage and staff three area ALS clinics, one each in New Jersey, New York City and Long Island. Local patients seek us out to help make up their own shortfalls. We will never refuse a patient of services when we have them to offer, but our resources become stretched at times like these. The ALS Association relies on many volunteers to fill in where they can, using individuals with particular expertise to supplement a very dedicated, but beleaguered, staff.

President Barack Obama’s fundraising campaign relied on millions of what are called micro-donations along with locally formed fundraising campaigns to fill the coffers. This “Obama Effect” did not go unnoticed by the development departments in non-profits. The ALS Association had been working toward that type of online grassroots fundraising all throughout 2008 but has really stepped up their efforts for 2009.

Through a strategic Social Networking campaign along with a greater focus on helping individuals and groups form their own fundraising events. It’s going to be a tough year ahead but with some creative thinking and lots of hard work, we think we can make up for the shortfall in donations this coming year.

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