It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.
—Alan Cohen, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul series
If the above quote holds true, we are about to build our courage in new ways as we face a world for which few of us have prepared. For all the turmoil, today’s economic collapse had to come. Try as we might, we cannot avoid the natural laws of balance and equilibrium, and before the downturn hit, we had headed further and further from a sustainable path.
Of course, when these corrections come, they are as brutal as major hurricanes and, like natural disasters, hit the most vulnerable people and institutions first. This issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly is meant to serve as a thought partner for your organization as it manages this new reality. We do not necessarily have words of comfort, but we believe now is the time to examine what really matters, what we are prepared to let go of, and what is most fundamental about our work that cannot be relinquished.
As you and your colleagues face what are likely to be challenging choices, we hope this issue can support your process; help you evaluate options; and hold an open dialogue with your board, constituents, and supporters. The environment will require quick decisions, and some of these decisions will inevitably have long-term and unanticipated consequences.
NPQ would like to take this moment to announce its intention to work with all of you over the next three years to try to inform the best possible outcomes for the communities you serve. This is unquestionably a transformational moment for the nonprofit sector. The worst economic downturn in the postprivatization era, coupled with a new administration with a different but largely untested approach to the nonprofit sector, means there are likely to be big shifts in the relationship between nonprofits and government, philanthropy, and business. There may also be big shifts in the parameters and content of the sector. Dr. Paul Light of the Wagner School at New York University has projected that, because of the scarcity of funding, we may see 100,000 fewer nonprofits within a few years’ time with larger groups surviving over the smaller. He argues, however, that the sector can take control of its own destiny by making conscious and informed choices about how it will do business and what it should look like. NPQ’s new project “Nonprofits in the Age of Obama” is designed to help nonprofits and the nonprofit sector take an active and foresighted approach to reconstructing the sector at a moment of extreme losses and opportunities.