Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Everybody Knows

I've mentioned in the past that I am involved in a nonprofits. I volunteer and do other work for them, as well as sit on the board of directors. Locally we have some organizations that support nonprofits in various ways, and one of those ways is by offering classes and seminars. The classes are on different topics: developing a good board, creating marketing campaigns, and as you might guess, fund raising. I like going to these seminars and try to attend whenever I can. I almost always end up learning something.

Last week I attended one of these classes on the very appropriate topic of how to fund raise during difficult financial times. It was a very informative meeting. One of the things the speaker said really surprised me: he had statistics from the Center of Philanthropy going back to 1967 showing charitable giving by Americans. During this time we have had 12 years that were considered recession years. In all of those years charitable giving went down... but only by 3% on average! In other words, even when times are tough, people don't stop giving. In fact, some people increase their giving, because they know that charities need their support even more. That help makes up for those that can't give.

I'll be honest, my charitable giving has decreased significantly, although whenever I can, I do donate. As soon as things level out a little for me, (possibly even as soon as June,) I would like to get back in to regularly giving to the causes that are important to me. But that isn't what got me thinking. Instead, I started thinking about attitudes. I personally would have assumed that charitable giving would have dipped by a lot more than 3%, and I am not alone. At every board meeting we've been talking about how our nonprofit has been hurt by the recession. I started thinking, "Are we, as a board, setting ourselves up for failure?" And then once I asked that question, I started thinking about individuals...

By now, every American is well aware that there is a recession out there. Every day our news media tells us about people that are out of work and bank balances are getting low. Because of what "everybody knows" my fellow board members and I have gnashing our teeth and wailing over how difficult it is going to be to get donations, but how much of this panic is due to assumptions? When you look at the actual numbers, 3% isn't all that bad. We can weather through that!

Yet here we are, all sure that this economy is going to hurt us. It is like that old expression "Whether you think you can or can't do something, you're right." And when I think of this, I have to ask, how does what "everybody knows" effect us as individuals? How many people who have been laid off have given up finding work, because everybody knows the job market is bad? How many have allowed their homes to go into foreclosure because everybody knows that foreclosures are happening everywhere?

Do you see what I mean? How much of what is happening is part of a self fulfilling prophesy? I direct this only in part to you, my reader. I don't think this is a huge problem for the people I know. In fact, every blog I read is about people who aren't letting this economy slow them down. They are positive folks who, like me, sometimes get frustrated, but for the most part are holding strong and looking forward to the future. But, I can see in my own life time where I might not be trying quite as hard as I should, expecting failure and blaming it on the recession. The truth is though that everybody doesn't know. None of us expected we'd get in this and no one knows exactly when we'll get out.

The only thing we can do is keep moving forward, regardless of what everybody knows.

From "Everybody Knows" by the fabulous Leonard Cohen...

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Photo by: RickyDavid


getting stuff done said...

I dont know if it is the same over here in the UK. But my husband got made redundant from the charity he worked for. they have lost a lot of money, but a lot of that is because the houses people are leaving the charity in their wills are not worth as much. the other way it is affecting charities is that the charity shops (selling second hand stuff) do really good business. but the consequence of that is that they run out of stock! and stock is hard to find because people dont give them so much stuff. ironic really.

we are not letting it affect us however. his redundancy is an opportunity. Already he is enjoying the freelance work he is getting. and he is volunteering his services to the Green Party.

Dawn said...

I have a number of friends that are laid off and three of them are actually enjoying this opportunity and trying to make the most of it - one is starting his own business, one is looking at getting into consulting and a third is becoming a full time student. Those are the things, like what your husband is doing, that I find exciting. I love seeing people using these opportunities, rather than letting them bring them down further.