This promises to be a long, cold winter, and it will hurt some more than others. I overheard two women talking while I was waiting in line for coffee this morning. Both, apparently, take applications for fuel assistance. They were commiserating about the fact that there is little money around right now to meet the immediate requests of the people they see and worrying about the resulting problems snowballing into real human tragedy. Both of them were working reduced hours themselves, but there was little talk about that.

Most of us are in the same position — working hard while waiting for the scenario to unfold. Among nonprofits of all types and sizes we are already hearing about the impact of state and local budget cuts and precipitous asset declines among foundations. Will it be bad news for all nonprofits or will some be hit worse than others? What essential work will be threatened and what will that mean for children, seniors, the mentally ill, newcomers, people in need of legal counsel, and domestic violence victims?

In this article from the Nonprofit Quarterly’s winter 2008 edition, Paul Light has predictions about what the nonprofit sector faces as four possible futures. Do you agree with the scenarios he has imagined? Are nonprofits likely to be miraculously bailed out? Will nonprofits suffer across the board, or will those of a certain size be saved while others are winnowed out as inefficient? On the other hand might those in our sector manage to declare and live out our real value as democratic actors as never before? Of course, these futures are not static or pre-ordained: they depend on what we nonprofits do. Which of these scenarios do you believe is most likely?

Weigh in after reading the article and post your response on our Web site (scroll to the bottom of the article to comment). Tell us about your organization and the steps being taken by nonprofits in your area to stay relevant and even build impact!  Don’t miss getting into this conversation. Your voice is critical to ensure that the agenda for nonprofits does not attend to the health of only the largest and best connected!