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Richard Walden Headshot

A Nonprofit Barely Survives the $6 Billion Election

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I had been predicting for over a year that the just-concluded national elections would cost $6 billion, all-in. It gave me no pleasure that CNN cited that estimated figure in last night's recap of the 2012 campaigns.

What also wasn't fun was receiving my charity's annual audit report showing a drop in income of nearly 75 percent in private donations. Unlike many international groups, mine (Operation USA) does not accept U.S. Government foreign aid funds; unlike the American Red Cross, we don't have stand-by cost reimbursement contracts when mobilized by government agencies like FEMA or the State Department's USAID after a domestic or international disaster. We don't have their responsibility, it's true; we try to mount a fast, agile disaster response with supplies on hand; but it's a zero sum game every time.

The pot of funds we have access to comes from some of the same folks who donated $6 billion in discretionary money to the endless campaigns -- for media buys, consultants and campaign staff. To think that there was no effect on many nonprofits from so much money being used in campaigns, is fooling yourself. Just 10 percent of that figure is a huge amount of money if spent for charitable purposes.

Of course there are the odd, social media-driven success stories of the message itself mobilizing massive amounts of money for a worthy cause -- by groups both worthy and unworthy, competent and incompetent, experienced or with mistakes yet to be made.

This is a plea to one and all: please replenish your bank accounts and put 2014 and 2016 election spending on ice while looking to worthy nonprofits in your own communities and make the year-end donations we all count on.