Now that the holiday season is over and retailers in general are reporting slightly higher sales than last year, the business community is letting out a shared sigh of relief, because it could have easily gone the other way continuing the recession we have all been dealing with over the last 3 years. And as USA Today reported last week "Many business say they are ready to increase hiring in early 2012 after seeing stronger consumer confidence".
With this cautiously optimistic news, why do our nonprofits continue to report having less money to provide the services our society has counted on them to deliver? Is it because with our gridlock in Washington, our government can't provide for those in need so it falls back on charities to pick up the slack? Is it because America has now passed the giving season and we are back in to our selfish little worlds now that it has turned from December to January? Or is it just a sign of our times where non-profits are in the rear view mirror to all of us lucky enough to have jobs?
The Tacoma, Washington Tri City Herald, reported last week that" families were turning to private charities for everything from medical care to diapers". Beverly Weber, the CEO of the United Way in that area calls it a "squeeze from two directions, with less government funding of human and social services and a greater demand. When families can't get services through scaled-back state programs, they turn to charities", she said. "Also, some employers have dropped health insurance programs because of the expense and many employees have opted out of their health insurance for the same reason".
CNBC reported last month that "US Nonprofits see slow economic recovery, and that many of the nation's nonprofit organizations are digging in for another 3-4 years of financial distress. Most of the nation's smaller charities saw donations drop again this year; and food pantries and homeless shelters reported funding crisis because of an increase in need coupled with a drop in donations".
The Daily Astorian in Oregon, reports that the United Way, which receives much of the funding from donations of voluntary payroll deductions, has seen those contributions decrease each of the last 4 years because those generous people are not employed anymore; or they have had to cut their donations to survive themselves.
This same story is repeated in community after community where "the have not's" are suffering more than ever and the "haves" are just moving on with their lives. The season of giving is over except for anyone with a conscious. Most of us made resolutions last week and hope we can keep at least one. The one all of us should keep is to go out of our way to help our fellow Americans, at least until this economy gets back on track and our nonprofits can get healthier, even if it takes 3-4 years.
Businesses should be leading the rest of us in this effort to help. This month, the small contribution my company,DollarDays , is doing is giving away 1,200 socks to 13 different nonprofits on our Facebook page. I see where Cabarrus County, NC is giving away surplus office supplies and furniture to the nonprofits in their area on Jan. 19. If every company and every organization looked deep within how they can support their community, I am sure all of our little efforts will accelerate the nonprofits digging out faster than 3-4 years in order for them to serve the greater need. In the history of mankind, those too poor were sent to debtor's prison and society wrote them off. Luckily for us, in 1833, the United States abolished Federal imprisonment for unpaid debts. But we all have a debt to this country that made us the freest society in the world. We need to take care of this debt by taking care of our nonprofits who take care of those of us in need. It is the true cycle of life. Don't wait until our next Holiday season. Give back now.
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