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A Look Into Nonprofits' History: Finding The Way Forward

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

As America faces social unrest and the challenges presented by COVID-19, all facets of society are having to learn difficult lessons. It is helpful at times like these to revisit the lessons provided by history.

Healthcare and social justice reform are born of such moments. The 1918 Flu Pandemic resulted in centralized healthcare systems, the early beginnings of the World Health Organization, and the establishment of epidemiology as a science. The Civil Rights Movement led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited “discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” History tells us we will find ways to move forward with meaningful measures.

As bearers of America’s philanthropic traditions, our nonprofit organizations share those historical achievements as well as our past and current hardships. In recent years, nonprofits have faced increasing headwinds, and many are now fighting for survival. In a scenario likely playing out across America, a study in Florida found that nearly one in five nonprofits in the Miami-Dade County area projected a revenue loss of 50-100% since the COVID crisis, and 55% reported a decrease in donations. All this at a time when many nonprofits are facing an increase in demand for services.

Yet, although the statistics and reports may be worrying, we should remember to take stock of our nation’s civic and social impact legacies. Our country is steeped in resourcefulness, innovation, and collaboration. In 1941, in the midst of WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on American organizations to help provide for the “religious, spiritual, welfare, and educational needs” of our armed forces. Six organizations formed a partnership in response to the call: The Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, National Jewish Welfare Board, and National Travelers Aid Association. The USO was born out of this collaborative effort towards greater good.

Today, there are an estimated 1.3 million nonprofits in the US, yet 88% of them operate on less than $500,000 a year. Most small nonprofits go it alone.

The current economic, political, and social environment requires new approaches and ways of thinking. Nonprofits must invite collaboration and conversation. They must also innovate and assess the changing needs of society as well as their own organizations and adapt based on those needs. Using a multi-dimensional approach, nonprofits need to adopt more technology, seek out partnerships, and communicate openly within their organizations as well as with donors, businesses, and the communities they serve. As governments look to revise budgets, advocacy is essential. Not only do nonprofits support vital causes, but state and local economies rely on them for jobs and revenue. The way nonprofits adapt now will be crucial in finding a viable new future for philanthropy in the US.

Today’s environment provides many challenges but to indulge in pessimism is to overlook solutions. Through partnership and innovation, we can not only survive the current challenges but continue effecting change and progress for the future.

NEDDIE believes in the transformative power of collaboration. By connecting nonprofits, donors, and businesses, our goal is to multiply social impact exponentially. Our free digital toolset is customized to help nonprofits increase efficiency and visibility for their causes. Businesses will be able to maximize their philanthropic activities and brand awareness. And donors will experience new and exciting ways to get involved with the causes that matter most to them. We invite you to join our social impact community. Visit NEDDIE today.

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