State of the sector: lots of facts and a few thoughts

Eyal Press’s Nation article reviewing the state of the nonprofit union–reprinted on alternet–is a fine example of journalistic synthesis, identifying half a dozen aspects of the situation in which nonprofits find themselves, illustrating each with a punchy example, and offering a taste of possible solutions.  Everyone in the sector should read it–twice.

The Nonprofiteer’s takeaways:

  • There are things we can do as nonprofit managers, including bringing our employees into the process of figuring out how the agency can survive.  Don’t just decide who’s expendable: ask, and see whether some of your better-paid employees will take pay cuts to assure the continuation of their jobs and everyone else’s.
  • There are things we can do as donors, including adopting the MacArthur Foundation’s posture: “We have less money today than we had last year but more than we had five years ago.  Looked at from that perspective, we can still afford to give.”
  • The things we can’t do as members of the nonprofit community are precisely the things we can and should do as citizens.  Though for years we’ve indulged in a widespread pretense that private charity by itself can provide the safety net society owes to its poorest,  Great Depression II is proving once again that this is nonsense–that the resources of the charitable sector are dwarfed by those available to the government, and always will be.  So, as citizens concerned with social justice, now is the time for us to raise our voices in support of public policies to advance it–including the taxation necessary to support it.  Charities can beg, and we do; but only the government can compel the entire polity to step up and pay what’s needed, and it must.
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