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Editor's Notes: The bottom line on nonprofits

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Robin Doussard
Thursday, November 05, 2009

The recession is hitting Oregon’s nonprofit sector hard. The Oregon Community Foundation’s midyear report on giving trends released this week shows that most of the 134 Oregon charitable nonprofits surveyed are under some degree of financial stress. It didn’t vary much from the report earlier this year from OCF.

The situation mirrors the national picture. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the nation’s 400 largest charities expect giving to drop by a median of 9% this year.

The OCF report doesn’t come as a surprise, given that foundations have lost equity in their funds; businesses are struggling to survive, while many have gone under; and the personal pocketbooks of all Oregonian have been pinched.

It’s also no surprise to me on both a personal level and as editor of Oregon Business. I sit on the board of two Portland nonprofits and both have struggled with decreased giving and increased need; both have had to make staff cutbacks, reduce pay or hours and cut expenses any way possible. Oregon Business in October reported on the issues facing the nonprofit sector, which included the economy, but also other issues such as the huge proliferation of charitable organizations. We quoted one expert as saying, “The landscape doesn’t have the capacity to support that many nonprofits; we’re oversaturated.” Some in the industry think it’s not a bad thing for consolidation among some groups and the winnowing of others.

The OCF midyear report also says that about half of the nonprofits reported that a decrease in business donations was responsible for their falloff in funding.

Some of the comments related to business giving from nonprofits around the state included:

“People and businesses giving less in our rural area.”

“Money is still available but it appears only available for immediate needs and food/shelter needs.”

“All new business sponsorships have stopped over the last year, and many that had committed pulled out of the agreement. Some of that is just starting to change, with new potential sponsors showing interest.”

“Although smaller in size, individual gifts collectively were larger than business donations.”

In our October 2009 Input survey, 69% of the 952 respondents to the survey said that their business was fairly active in supporting a charitable organization in their community and 74% said it was very or somewhat important for their company to have a formal program to support charitable activities.

I’ve watched for years the passion and heart that Oregon’s business community has for helping the critical work of the state’s nonprofit. I’ve seen businesspeople that were not doing well still dig deep to make sure that their nonprofit got the funding they promised. My guess is that as soon as the economy begins to rebound (still waiting here in Oregon), the business support will return in full force.

Robin Doussard is Editor of Oregon Business.





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