« Quote of the Day (Jan. 17, 2009) | Main | ANNOUNCEMENT: Finalists for $250,000 Nonprofit Collaboration Prize Announced »

Where Do We Go From Here?

January 17, 2009

Ray_sunshine Paul Light has a great piece in the new issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly in which he outlines four possible futures for the nonprofit sector (listed here from least likely to "wouldn't that be nice"):

The rescue fantasy. "The first future scenario is based on the 'kindness of strangers' and is likely to leave the nonprofit sector in the same position as poor, homeless Blanche DuBois. The idea is that Americans are a generous people and will continue giving, perhaps rising to the challenge and giving more from their strained budgets...."

A withering winterland. "This scenario has every nonprofit in the sector suffering....Depending on the length of the economic downturn, many nonprofits will starve themselves into a weakened organizational state through hiring freezes, pay freezes, layoffs, and deferred organizational maintenance...."

An arbitrary winnowing. "In this scenario, some nonprofits will fold, while others will prosper as contributions flow to the most visible and largest organizations as well as to those most connected to and influential with their donors...."

Transformation. "As has been noted in several of this issue’s articles, nonprofits could use the faltering economy and its impact on the sector as an opportunity to reinvent themselves. But this approach requires examining all possible options quickly and creatively...."

For the fourth scenario to become a reality, says Light, nonprofits need to embrace flexibility, innovation, and responsiveness and, at the same time, take the following concrete steps: resist funding restrictions; seek new ways to collaborate with other organizations; more closely coordinate research efforts that help the sector learn quickly about what works well and under what conditions; avoid overdependence on predetermined metrics as a method for encouraging effectiveness; and give young people a voice in determining the future of the sector. (Click here to read the complete article; it's well worth your time.)

Sounds like a sensible prescription to me. Is he right? Does the sector have the requisite capacity and leadership to, as Rahm Emanuel likes to say, turn crisis into opportunity? Or are we on the threshold, as Light has suggested elsewhere, of the proverbial seven lean years?

-- Mitch Nauffts

« Previous post    Next post »

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

Subscribe to PhilanTopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Filter posts

Select
Select
Select