Hard to Be Optimistic Even When News is Good

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November 29, 2010; Source: Forbes | It seems almost to be a requirement today that any good news stories about fundraising prospects for U.S. charities must carry a word or two of caution that reminds us we’re not out of the woods yet. A case in point: An Associated Press item about a newly released report indicating that nonprofits across the country are “seeing a slight increase in donations” goes on to say “but the turnaround hasn’t been strong enough to keep up with higher demand for charitable services.” The findings from the Nonprofit Research Collective show that one third of America’s charities enjoyed increased donations through September 2010 and are hopeful the good cheer will continue until the end of the year. Meanwhile, another third said donations continued to decline over the first nine months of 2010 and the remaining groups have been “holding steady.” A small number of organizations, however, are still very much struggling and improvements to their bottom line can’t come fast enough. The report found that some 20 percent of the groups surveyed worry they’ll have to cut budgets, lay off staff, and trim services in 2011, and another 7 percent don’t expect to be around next year. “Technically, we’re in a recovery,” said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which led the coalition of groups that conducted the study. “We are beginning to see some positive signs. But despite that, giving still has a long way to go to return to the levels it was at three or four years ago.” Although—and the data proves it—it goes without saying, Rooney said it anyway: “It’s a tougher time to be not-for-profit.”—Bruce Trachtenberg