2010: Daunting Challenges Face the Nonprofit World
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THE NONPROFIT WORLD is about to face the toughest year in its history. By every measure, 2010 could be far more painful for charities and the people they serve
than any other they have known.
Already many charities have been weakened by one of the
longest recessions America has witnessed.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual ranking of the 400
charities that raise the most money found that, by year’s
end, the nation’s top organizations expect a median decline
of 9 percent in donations, meaning half will see giving drop
even more starkly.
The search for money to finance charitable work will
grow more competitive than ever, as state governments and
private foundations cope with coffers that have dropped
sharply in value over the past two years. Need is growing
fast—some 49 million Americans now don’t get adequate
nutrition every day, the federal government says, an increase
of 13 million over last year. And the demands from the
nation’s most-vulnerable residents fall not just on emergency
food and shelter groups, but on other organizations, such as
health clinics that must serve the uninsured and colleges
overwhelmed by demands for student aid.
The work force that charities and foundations mobilize to
meet the challenges is far different than it was just a few
years ago. Charities have laid off thousands of employees.
Even workers whose jobs seemed protected have received
pink slips, as Stanford University, one of the nation’s
most successful fund-raising institutions, laid off 50 staff
members in its development office, and American Lebanese
Syrian Associated Charities, the fund-raising arm of St.
Jude Children’s Research Hospital, last month eliminated 70
At organizations around the country, workers are taking
pay cuts and in many cases, reductions in retirement and
health benefits. Some groups told Congress this fall that
their very survival was on the line as they sought to meet
federal pension rules and keep their organizations afloat.
As times get tougher, donors and governments are looking
more carefully than ever to make sure every dollar charities
receive is spent well. Lawmakers and donors look askance at
the multimillion-dollar executive salaries and raise questions
about whether charities are making enough of a difference to
justify their donations and government subsidies.
Even amid the challenges, interest in community service
is at a new high and giving is becoming an integral part of
everyday life. President Obama and the first lady, Michelle
Obama, who both have nonprofit backgrounds, have helped
to make community service “cool,” inspiring a multitude of
volunteer campaigns. Cultural arbiters like the Huffington
Post and the Daily Beast this year introduced sections on
their online news sites about doing good. And social media
like Facebook and Twitter are bringing philanthropy to the
masses through online fund raisers and contests.
On the pages that follow, The Chronicle examines 10 trends
that will shape how charities fare in 2010. We urge readers
to share their ideas; tell us what trends you think are key by
writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. And visit http://philan-
thropy.com/live for a discussion with the reporters and edi-
tors who compiled this list.
This special report was reported by Noelle Barton, Maria Di
Mento, Holly Hall, Peter Panepento, Suzanne Perry, Caroline
Preston, Christopher Thompson, Nicole Wallace, Ian Wilhelm,
and Grant Williams.
n Discuss the ideas in this special report with
Chronicle reporters and editors on December 10, at
noon, Eastern time. Go to:
n Read the trends for 2010 identified by nonprofit
experts who follow The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s