Keeping it Real…and Powerful

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Because I figure that one way of knowing this stuff is through the surveys — how many nonprofits have reserves, how many don’t, how many have laid-off staff, how many have reached the end of their lines of credit . . . sometimes it just makes you want to lapse into a coma — sleep it out. Wake up to the world as it has evolved or devolved a year hence.

But, of course, none of us are doing that. Most of us can see the real consequences of inaction and everyone is pulling out all of the stops, investigating every avenue for making the most of this moment in our history.

The stories I have heard from our readers to date are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

  • A health clinic that serves the very poor, but is ineligible as a federally qualified health center because of the community’s high per-capita income, is experiencing an upswing in patient need. The clinic is scrambling to find the doctors, nurses and space to meet their needs, hoping they do not have to shut their doors on the newly unemployed.
  • A repertory theater that helps anchor a city’s downtown core struggles with their need to take risks on productions, even when they are on something of a financial precipice. They are fully aware that they may end up looking like heroes or goats as a result of decisive action taken now.
  • A community development organization, in a largely rural state, tries to maintain its focus on those most in need, balancing rural and urban housing, when its resource mix is trying to drive them toward serving people less-in-need and primarily working on urban housing instead.
These and the others we are collecting are the stories behind those nameless and faceless surveys, which — don’t get me wrong — are useful but not really the story.We at NPQ, however, are your journalists. Consider us your personal biographers. Over the next few years, we will be following a number of organizations as they develop strategies and make decisions. We will also be following what is happening in the policy realm and in your funding environment among other things — chronicling this period and, in the process, alerting you to issues that need your attention and management resources that may be useful to you. If you are interested in being one of the organizations we follow, we are still taking self-nominations. If you want full access to these stories as they are published, please subscribe to the journal. We are dependent upon your support.

As part of this telling of the story, we are watching the federal picture under the new administration to understand what it will mean for the nonprofit sector. What’s happening with the stimulus package in terms of nonprofits; what’s going on with the Serve Act and the Give Act; and that new Office of Social Innovation? And in the midst of that we are seeing new strengths emerge in our sector that promise a way forward that is more finely and strategically tuned to the times.

Among many other positive developments is the emergence of a strong national network of state associations of nonprofits at the federal level. This network (National Council of Nonprofits) has already had an impact, spearheading an effort to get $25 million in nonprofit capacity building money inserted into the Serve Act now making it’s way to the desk of our new president. We want to acknowledge this accomplishment and urge each of you to seek out your state association and congratulate them, get involved in helping to develop the implementation plan, and if you are not already members of your state association, consider joining. Nonprofits need a policy voice for those issues that transcend any particular field of practice.Meanwhile — I think about you constantly and here is how I know if you’ve read to the end of this uncharacteristically long letter. Today — April Fool’s Day, of course — is my birthday.

p.s. Order today to start your subscription to the Nonprofit Quarterly.