I have been battling a variety of emotions during this economic downturn. The most prevalent emotion is me feeling like the market would get better for nonprofits if I laid under my desk in the fetal position and said "I'm not listening to you public radio" over and over again. Last week was pretty brutal with the Madoff scandal (which closed the JEHT Foundation, a prominent social justice foundation that gave away $25 million a year and impacted nonprofits and foundation throughout the country). Then a local arts organization, Intermedia Arts, which creates social change through the arts, announced a massive restructure that will include closing their gallery and moving all staff besides the ED to hourly, contract positions. Earlier this month I went to an amazing exhibit that Headwaters is supporting at Intermedia Arts called Body Burden, which shows the connections between our bodies, our environment, and our modern way of life. Now the future of their arts programming is unclear.
Foundations do not have the funds, expertise, or vast network needed to get us out of this mess but YOU do. Don't avert your eyes, I'm serious. The future of the organizations that you care about and their ability to create change in our communities rests solely in your hands. This is a time where we need all hands on deck. If there is a cause that you care about, be proactive, before they close their doors. Ask one of their staff members what their greatest need is and help them get it. Use your network to find them a volunteer grantwriter, bake them cookies for their next staff meeting, offer to upgrade their website, ask your friends to give a gift in your name to the organization instead of birthday gifts, write a letter to the editor to talk about how nonprofits are an economic driver in your community, go visit a nonprofit theater instead of seeing a movie on a Friday night, buy new basketballs for your local rec center, donate your old clothes to a local clothes shelf, become a technical skills tutor so your favorite organization doesn't need to hire as many consultants, use your facebook friends and linked in connections to help the organization raise money for holiday toys, introduce their Executive Director to your foundation CEO, find them a high profile board member, be their high profile board member, ask Givewell to rate your cause, provide childcare at their next community meeting, bring their brochures to your favorite coffee shop's bulletin board, donate an item to their silent auction, ask 100 friends to donate items to their silent auction. Do something! You have everything that it takes for us to make it through this, you just have to do it.
What else can you do to make sure that our social sector exits this financial downturn in a better position than when it started?