Rays of Hope -- Things May Be Looking Up for Nonprofit Organizations

Article excerpt

The Memphis nonprofit sector is slowly recovering from the one- two punch delivered by the recession.

The first punch: Funds dried up as businesses and individuals tightened their purse strings and government spending was cut.

The second punch: Demands for nonprofit services rose as the recession forced more people to seek them out.

But in its annual review of the nonprofit sector, the Memphis- based Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence says rays of hope are peeking through the tough times. A few more organizations reported more funding this year over last and only 12 percent of those that responded to the survey expected a worse year next year than they had this year. But all of this comes with one big caveat.

(Funding) is not going to return to pre-Great Recession levels for quite awhile, said Nancy McGee, CEO of the Alliance. It was predicted early on that it would take about 10 years, if then. I think we're just going to see (the nonprofit sector) slowly recover.

The 18-month recession, one of the nation's most severe, officially ended in June 2009, but the recovery since has been weak.

While improvements in funding limp along, the demand for services from nonprofit organizations races at full throttle. The Alliance study said nearly three-quarters of nonprofit organizations saw increased service demands and 82 percent of Memphis organizations saw more clients and many of them with more problems, suggesting that the number of people turning to nonprofits for services continues to grow.

Hardest hit this year were safety net organizations, McGee said, like food banks and shelters. Donations to them tapered off after the recession, they can't charge for their services, and they rely on government contracts and grants in a time when government budgets have been cut.

Tech strategy

But many nonprofit organizations are turning to existing and new technologies in an effort to do more with less.

Leaders of several Memphis nonprofit organizations gathered in a conference room last month at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis to learn how to identify the pieces of technology at their offices and how best to employ them. …