GuideStar, an organization that gathers and publishes data on charitable organizations, recently conducted a survey looking to measure impact of the economic downturn on nonprofits.
As GuideStar explains,
“We’ve got good news and bad news.” The old joke fits the findings from our latest nonprofit economic survey, which looked at how charitable organizations fared financially between March and May 2009. The good news is that the proportion of nonprofits reporting decreased contributions, 52 percent, remained unchanged from our previous survey, which covered October 2008 through February 2009. So things apparently didn’t worsen dramatically for charitable organizations between March and May.
The bad news is that the numbers don’t reflect the stress the economy is placing on nonprofits. As one participant put it, “We are hanging on, barely.” Another reported, “The only reason we are still solvent is that we had a financial crisis and could no longer pay our utility bill. After media coverage of the situation, we were inundated with generosity and kindness, and the donations covered the utility bill and the excess paid off outstanding bills, with a little cushion for the future. We were very fortunate. We realize this is a one-time deal, but it has put us back on our feet.”
What’s significant to me? The fact that on every dataset the numbers are nearly exactly the same as the previous year. Maybe this means those polled were in positions to have a buffer from the downturn; maybe it means that the real impact will show up in the 2010 surveys; or maybe it means that the effects of the downturn aren’t playing out the way speculators thought.
What do you think? Has your organization seen more significant changes in it’s funding or services “because” of the economic downturn?