When I took the job as Chairman of the Board for Epidemic Theatre, a not-for-profit arts organization here in Smyrna, I don't know if I was really prepard for the reality freight train that was about to hit me.
In this economy, nonprofits get hit the worst. Even though the economy is hinting at improvement, Charitable giving continues to be low for charities, especially those with operating budgets less than a million dollars a year. "Nonprofits are still facing very challenging circumstances," said Una Osili, director of research at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, one of six organizations in the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. It is markedly worse for those non-profits which we consider fringe, entertainment, or non-essential. When the economy slows down, we tend to look at things we need, rather than what would enrich our lives more thorougly.
Groups just like ours struggle with the harsh reality of decreased funding and providing services to the community. Every time our available capital shrinks, because of reduced giving, non-profits can provide less back. As an arts organization, this means we cannot produce entertainment for families and adults, educational outreach through workshops and classes, and even our free entertainment becomes limited.
I've worked with several non-profits that benefit communities on both small and large scales. Rarely do people recognize the tangible benefit until it is too late. Sometimes it is a little mindset shift to realize that non-profits are completely funded by the people and serve the people. The best national instance I can think of is NPR and our local affiliate WABE. Without listener donation, they would cease to operate. It is radio for the people, by the people.
While this isn't a plea for everyone to open their wallets or pocketbooks, it is a gentle reminder that support doesn't just have to be financial. Support your favorite non-profits with your time, talent, goods, or financially. Philanthropy is defined as "the love of the welfare and advancement of humanity", which means anyone can participate in the act and in many ways.
This summer, think of all your summer activities that might be provided by non-profits and be sure to think of them and give back.