The economic uncertainty is starting to hit the nonprofit sector. Some foundations are already talking about how, given the devaluation of financial assets, grants will be smaller in number and size in the coming year. And wealthy individuals, suffering similar financial hits, will likely restrict their giving. At the same time, the need for the services many nonprofits, particularly social service agencies, provide is increasing. But the costs to provide those services are also growing (gas, food, etc.). Add to that the impact of the credit crisis on nonprofits ability to expand, or just continue, their services, and the picture is pretty bleak.
However, in the midst of all of this there are some very encouraging signs of increased interest in the social sector and philanthropy. Over the past 40 years philanthropic giving has increased almost 3 fold. The number of national conferences, meetings and gatherings around philanthropy, social innovation, social enterprise, and social entrepreneurship throughout the country has grown significantly in the last several years. As has the number of investor or giving circles (groups of people who pool their money to make large investments in nonprofits). And discussions about national service, greater philanthropy, more volunteerism have become regular features in political campaigns and the mainstream media.
Despite the fact that the nonprofit sector is really struggling and will continue to do so for awhile, a real shift is taking place. More people are recognizing that the nonprofit sector cannot just limp by. We need to find a better way to solve the many problems facing our country. We need to invest more money in the sector, we need to devote more time to it, we need to find more solutions, we need to pool our efforts and our thinking to come up with new strategies. It is an exciting, if unsettling, time.