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Sep 23, 2010

Reasons to Hope for a Future in the Nonprofit Sector

The Columbus Foundation released a report last week that compared the response of Central Ohio’s nonprofits to the recession with the average response of nonprofits nationally. The results are a strong affirmation of the responsible management of nonprofits in central Ohio and the benefits of the partnerships that have developed between nonprofits and the major donor community.

The Columbus Foundation surveyed local nonprofits to compare 2010 with 2009 in terms of their financial situation, fiscal responses, and outlook for the future. It found that central Ohio nonprofits were more likely than their national counterparts to have decreased their budgets, frozen salaries, and restructured their operations, including sharing or merging services with other nonprofits. It also found that local nonprofits were more affected by changes in corporate giving while their counterparts were more likely affected by changes in individual giving. At the same time and in sharp contrast with national sentiment, virtually all local nonprofits in the survey were confident or at least hopeful that they would be able to continue to sustain services into the future- and for good reason.

  • Central Ohio has extremely committed and responsible nonprofit leadership
  • The provision of services for the common good has completed its movement down the financial food chain to the nonprofits
  • Local nonprofits have become smarter in this decade as they focus on collaboration in programming, back office services and sustainability

While there is great hope, local nonprofits are more dependent on corporate contributions than their national counterparts. This is a mixed blessing.  By having strong corporate philanthropy, local nonprofits have not developed individual giving programs as effectively as others. Local nonprofits need to wean themselves from this and develop individual giving programs in the future. 

Nevertheless, local nonprofits are hopeful because they understand how the business cycle impacts them and they are preparing for future ups and downs. They understand that they are the bulwark for key community services and they know that if they don’t secure the future, the local community will suffer. There is still a lot to learn — but I have a sense that they have been reading my Business First columns and they take seriously the lessons in my books, Linking Mission to Money and More Than Just Money. Read those books and you will understand why there is good reason to hope for a future for the nonprofit sector.