Nonprofits brace for Armageddon

Nonprofits are feeling the pinch of the deepening recession.

I routinely hear stories about it here, where we have one of the largest concentrations of nonprofits among rural counties — and much duplication.

Consolidation already is underway, among the area’s nonprofit senior centers, for example.

Sierra Christian, a nonprofit school in Nevada City that was deep in the red, has closed — a reminder that boards need to step up . Foothill Theatre has cut back its schedule of plays. The Lutz Center for seniors has closed.

This will continue later this year and next.

My biggest concern: the dearth of nonprofits dedicated to helping *people*  around here, compared with ones dedicated to the environment, animals or “things.” It’s disproportional.

At a time like this, we need to help our fellow humans first and foremost.

We’re not alone in facing this problem. This morning’s Chronicle has a sobering front-page article on the situation there, titled “Bay Area Nonprofits brace for 2010 Armageddon.”  The Bay Area has the largest concentration of nonprofits in the nation.

“Unlike recessions past, this one could permanently alter the nonprofit landscape, say nonprofit CEOs, forcing possible closures and mergers as the sector restructures to survive,” according to The Chronicle. “Funding is drying up on all fronts.”

The Web is all about databases, and a good one for nonprofits is www.taxexemptworld.com. Check it out.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

One thought on “Nonprofits brace for Armageddon”

  1. I think that the picture for non-profits in the next year is very grim. I am hearing all over the state that $ are going down, from individuals–corporations–and foundations alike. President Obama’s current budget also calls for an end to the tax deduction for donations by people making over $250,000 per year. This is a mistake and needs to be vigorously opposed by the public.

    Funders are telling us that they need to see resilience and innovation on the part of non-profit managers, and some movement toward consolidation or collaboration between groups to share capacity and services.

    I believe non-profits need to get out in front of this and share some of their indirect and operating expenses. I would love to see Nevada County non-profits begin to look at sharing office space and overhead through a series of non-profit resource centers that could reduce overhead costs. We could share expenses like copying, printing, purchasing, reception, phone systems, IT, bookkeeping, graphic design, etc. This could lead to a significant reduction in cost for many organizations while still maintaining their individual identity. There would be no better time to find shared office space then right now.

    It would be a shame to lose the non-profit capacity and the good it does that was so difficult to build in the Sierra Nevada.

    I would be careful about too narrowly defining “helping people”. There is nothing like a global economic crises to drive social inequity. People start looking at things like reducing wages and benefits, eliminating health care, cutting costs by externalizing environmental costs of production through pollution, or engaging in other short term exploitive behavior to reduce costs of production. This only leads to a greater need later on, and we end up having to pay for it one way or another.

    We need to think very carefully how we got into this and not make the conditions worse trying to get out.

    As a society we lost our values, went into debt unequaled to any time in American history since 1929 in order to by cheap crap built overseas, bought houses beyond our means because of our lack of thrift and narcissistic desires, attempted to pass the cost off to future generations, and our note was called. We did it to ourselves.

    Now we need to buckle down, reduce our debt, help our neighbors, and learn to live together with a little more commitment to our community.

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