KaberiThe New Normal

By: Kaberi Banerjee-Murthy In: 2009 Annual Conference| Money

5 May 2009

Helping Non Profits Through Economic Tough Times” was an interactive session focused on the real issues that funders are facing at this time.  Understanding that organizations may shrink or grow in response to the economic crisis, this panel provided concrete examples of what funders, boards and organizations can do to help strengthen an organization and its work.  The themes of providing general operating support, capacity building, financial sustainability and advocacy were not new, but the conversation between the panel and the audience provided specific examples that illustrated the issue. 

Ron McKinley (Fieldstone Alliance) and Karen Whalen (Kellogg Foundation) provided tools and shared best practices with the group. Specifically, they highlighted examples of how organizations can scale back thoughtfully instead of making cuts of across-the-board, focus on the reliability of funding sources instead of the diversity of funding streams, provide general operating support while still ensuring accountability, and provide net grants that cover the total true cost of the administrative cost and reporting requirements.

Gayle Williams (Babcock Foundation) warned us that there is “threat even in the opportunity” of this current moment.  She predicted that the economic downturn will test the economic infrastructure that has been built, and the influx of stimulus dollars may test it further.  She challenged us to think about how we can help organizations who are poised to grow with federal money “that is going to hit them like a Mack truck.”  One of the things that I was most impressed by was that she candidly addressed the race dynamics present in the flow of federal dollars, sharing that in her funding area, “the white power structure is not pleased that the dollars are flowing to organizations being led by people of color.”  She reminded us that we need to help these organizations meet the higher level of scrutiny that they may face.

While Dione Alexander (Nonprofit Finance Fund) reminded us that “this too shall pass,” she also cautioned us that the goal is not simply to help a grantee “get through” the recession.  If so, she said, “you have done them a disservice.  You need to come out of the recession different and stronger.  This is the new normal.”

Kaberi Banerjee-Murthy is a board member of Resource Generation.

1 Response to The New Normal

Joe Smolinski

May 5th, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Nobody at this conference has any idea what the “new normal” is until the take a walk with me and the millions of Americans that, through no fault of their own, are now unemployed. I’ve paid my taxes, mortgage and been loyal to my employer for 24 years but it means nothing compared to the desire of a slight majority of Americans that want someone else to lift them out of their circumstance. They have allowed themselves to become victims and the only solution is a government program or a foundation grant. The wine and cheese elites that are secure in their careers might think differently if tomorrow they were told to pack up the personal items, turn in their keys and credit cards and vacate their office within one hour. So enjoy the Atlanta Seafood Restaurant in Buckhead and your suite at the Marriott but understand that you are not in touch with the reality of what is happening in this country and the direction we are headed. Despite your compassionate heart and do-gooder attitude, you’re missing the big picture and represent the new bigotry that looks down their nose at the common man. Sleep well tonight but think about all of us that are wondering why the ethics of hard work and honesty no longer are valued in our country. Peace.

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