Last week I was driving to Newark to visit a nonprofit and I could not help but admire the colorful array of fall foliage as I drove down the highway. Each tree, each leaf was uniquely colored. Against the bright, sunny sky, the palette was brilliant. I began to reflect on the seasons, and how the visual environmental changes give clear signs that something different is going to happen. There are some signals in the nonprofit environment that we are seeing that change is happening for us as well. After surviving a very difficult recession, it seems the funding landscape is changing again with concerns over corporate foundation giving, government funding, and even individual philanthropy.
The recent forum that the Delaware Revenue Solutions Working Group held (of which DANA is a partner) brought together members of the government who lead the Delaware state budget discussion. We listened to them talk about their limited resources and all the challenges that come with balancing a budget. Nonprofit leaders have had that challenge for years! In fact, it seems that our organizations are being asked to serve more people with less funding annually. Potential cuts in government funding is concerning. In a recent survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, 67% of Delaware nonprofits reported that they work to deliver services to the community through state grants and contracts. And over 77% of people who took the survey indicate that demand for services is increasing.
There is uncertainty in the economic landscape too, which influences the work of nonprofits. This weekend’s News Journal article, featuring DuPont and its leadership change, describes how nonprofits and communities are impacted when cities lose their companies. Yet, today’s announcement of JP Morgan Chase’s investment in Delaware – projecting an additional 1,800 employees in the next several years – shows signs of hope. A strong workforce and vibrant companies are important elements to nonprofit health. Nationally, individual giving contributes 72% of all dollars to nonprofits, with corporations & private foundations give less than 10% overall. Here in Delaware, we have greatly benefitted from the generosity of our corporate philanthropists. However, in the past decade we have seen a loss of funding as corporations move away, or consolidate their giving to regional offices. The competition for dollars has gone up with a large pool of nonprofits reaching for the same regional pockets. In the meantime, individual philanthropy in Delaware is not at pace with national trends. Though the average Delaware household income is 12% above the national average, giving per household is 15% below the national average.
|Did you know: DANA's next training is coming up soon! "Breaking the Starvation Cycle" will explain the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Uniform Guidance on Indirect Costs. Whether your nonprofit receives federal money through grants and contracts directly, or even if it is a pass-through in state and local grants, the OMB Uniform Guidance that went into effect on December 26, 2014 applies to you! This is a DON'T MISS opportunity! Join us on Wednesday, November 4 in Wilmington, Thursday, November 5 in Dover, or Friday, November 6 in Georgetown.
So what is a nonprofit leader to do? First, recognize that your challenges are not unique. And neither are Delaware’s. Many other states and communities have experienced these challenges as corporations leave for international opportunities, or governments restructure their grants & contracts. We can learn from the work that other state nonprofits and nonprofit councils have done to hold, if not grow, funding opportunities for nonprofits.
How did they do it? They came together; they became a unified voice. And that is our opportunity. The change in the philanthropic landscape should be a chance for us to talk about the benefits of nonprofits to Delawareans, and then ask them to give. It is a chance to have productive conversations with our government officials on funding solutions instead of expense-cutting tactics. And, it is an opportunity for nonprofits to look to each other to see how we can work together to serve clients, patrons, and guests better and more efficiently.
The funding season is changing again. But one thing I know from the many nonprofit leaders who have weathered prior funding challenges is WE need to be the change. We need to change the model. And only together can we make that happen.