The economy is hurting. Soaring energy costs are driving up the cost of doing business. Candidates hunting for campaign contributions are strong-arming donors. And terrorism and the Iraq war are breeding fear and uncertainty about the future.
For charities, already struggling to meet rising demand for services with limited resources, the convergence of these growing pressures and their potential impact on giving can breed despair.
But nonprofits need to move beyond gloom and doom, and the sense of entitlement to which too many of them fall prey, and focus on doing what it takes to build their organizational capacity.
Advancing their mission effectively will require being smarter about running their businesses, delivering services, generating earned and contributed income, advocating for change, forming partnerships that work, and working to help shape the public policies underlying the symptoms and causes of the social problems they exist to address.
Those changes are needed because givers, funders, volunteers, board members and prospective partners expect nonprofits to be more accountable and to increase their effectiveness and impact.
The charitable marketplace is huge, growing fast and in need of clear-headed thinking and practical, enterprising ideas to make it be as good as it can be.
Tough economic times can be a catalyst for fostering new strategies to create more productive and collaborative models for delivering services and generating the resources nonprofits need to take on the urgent social problems our communities face.
Todd Cohen, a veteran news reporter and editor, is editor and publisher of Philanthropy Journal, an online newspaper published by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh, N.C. Cohen has taught nonprofit reporting and media relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University, and regularly speaks on the topics of nonprofit media relations and trends in the charitable world.