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The Quiet Crisis

Apr 03, 2009
The nonprofit sector of the economy constitutes 11 percent of the workforce, more than the auto and financial industries combined. They are suffering a triple whammy in the present downturn: less foundation and individual giving; diminished support from states and localities that are themselves feeling the pinch; and dramatically increased demand from the populations they serve.

In The Quiet Crisis: The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Nonprofit Sector (.pdf, 2.6Mb, 22 pages), a joint report by Civic Enterprises and the Democratic Leadership Council, the parameters of the problem are made starkly evident:

  • Churches saw a decrease of $3 to $5 billion in expected giving in the third quarter of 2008.
  • United Way saw an increase of 60 percent in the calls for basic services in 2008.
  • Chicago is trimming its Meals on Wheels budget by more than a third.
  • Arizona saw an increase of over 100 percent in the number of people who sought social services from 2007 to 2008.
  • Michigan suffered simultaneous increase in demand by 70 percent of its nonprofits while 50 percent say their financial support has declined.
The report makes four general recommendations:
  • Pass the Serve America Act, a $5.7 billion program that will increase the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000. The Senate passed their version of this bill last week.
  • Adopt a handful of tax incentives that will expand private giving and volunteering.
  • Establish a fund that would produce programs to improve nonprofit management and develop new ideas and pilot programs to improve existing systems.
  • Give nonprofit housing and financial institutions a prominent role in solving the nation’s massive mortgage and foreclosure problems.
Should this recession continue to worsen, look for massive layoffs in the nonprofit sector, with a resultant dropoff of assistance to those who need it most. It is incumbent upon those of us still employed to do what we can to bolster this segment of society. As it falters, so will we be called upon in a variety of unpleasant ways to absorb the consequences.
tags: Volunteerism

Doing Good by Doing Better

Sep 15, 2008
Did you know that 27.2 percent of adult Americans volunteer their services, from training and teaching to fundraising, food service, coaching, building, and other tasks in support of nonprofit organizations serving the disadvantaged?

The Corporation for National Community Service would like to increase those numbers, as well as provide volunteer programs with tools that will help keep their volunteers and attract additional ones. In their September 2008 report, Capitalizing on Volunteers' Skills: Volunteering by Occupation in America (.pdf), they note that most volunteers don’t utilize the skills from their own occupations in their primary volunteering activities. They hypothesize that “[f]inding ways to incorporate the occupational skills of volunteers may make the volunteer experience more fulfilling and increase nonprofits’ ability to retain their volunteers.” Their hypothesis is backed up by some statistics which are somewhat shaky owing to the smallish sample.

In any event, it is plain that utilizing a volunteer’s skill set greatly increases the value of the volunteer to the organization and in most instances arguably encourages volunteer retention. It is also interesting to note from this report that the annual dollar value of hours served exceeds $122 billion.

Let those 81 million points of light shine more brightly!
tags: Volunteerism

A Call to Eyes, Part 2

Jul 23, 2008
Hello, out there!

If you are reading this, and if you enjoy ATN and understand its potential value, perhaps you will consider joining our select ranks. If you could take on the task of reading one report associated with an area of your interest (see tags to the left), then writing up an ATN entry for us to consider publishing, you would be doing us all a big favor, including yourself.

I say “for us to consider publishing” because, let’s face it, the Internet is a reflection of the world, and both are full of questionable characters, so I have to put in that proviso. However, I am pretty sure that if you are clicking with ATN, your contribution will not only be published but will be of great value to us all.

Here’s all you need to do: Send me an email and tell me what “tag(s)” you are interested in, and I’ll get back to you with your “assignment.” In the alternative, feel free to suggest your own assignment, but let me give you the go-ahead before you actually write up the piece.

See the original “Call to Eyes” below for more information.

And Welcome Aboard!
tags: Volunteerism

Read the Original “Call to Eyes”

A Call to Eyes!

Jun 24, 2008
I don't know if you're old enough to remember I.F. Stone. A pity if you're not. He was one of my heroes in the 60s. I.F. Stone's Weekly never had a circulation much above 70,000, but it was voted by his peers to be #16 of the top 100 works of journalism in the 20th century. Victor Navasky, writing in The Nation in 2003, gives a nice precis of Stone's muckraking, his prescience, and his iconoclasm.

Navasky describes Stone's methodology:

To scour and devour public documents, bury himself in The Congressional Record, study obscure Congressional committee hearings, debates and reports, all the time prospecting for news nuggets (which would appear as boxed paragraphs in his paper), contradictions in the official line, examples of bureaucratic and political mendacity, documentation of incursions on civil rights and liberties. He lived in the public domain.
Here at All Together Now, we confront masses of (digital) paper every day--congressional bills and research reports, think tank documents, press releases and other news stories, etcetera. And we're no I.F. Stone. But all together now (get it?), maybe we can emulate him to some degree.

I am looking for readers who will take on some of these primary source documents (one manageable document at a time), read it thoroughly and, if appropriate, report back the important points discovered that we all need to know about. If you'd like to help, we'd love to try you out with something. Email us at webmaster@alltogethernow.org and tell us your area(s) of interest. Use the tags in the left-hand column as your guide.

We are not, primarily, in the muckraking business. There are many web sites handling that essential task quite well these days. Read About ATN to find out where we're coming from before volunteering.

And Welcome Aboard!
tags: Volunteerism

Read Navasky's Piece

What's the Matter with Kids Today?

May 29, 2008
Nothing, according to the NYTimesís Nicholas Kristof in his May 11 column. Kids as young as seven years old are making real contributions to saving their world.
tags: Volunteerism

Go to Column (free registration may be required)

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