Posted by: COSI | December 26, 2008

Running Not-for-Profits In Tough Times

It was just about the time that the Buffalo Museum of Science started its financial turnaround when this country suffered the 9/11 tragedy and the technology bubble burst sending the economy into turmoil. I watched our endowment at Buffalo drop by 1/3. As tough as the financial aftermath of 9/11 was on the whole country, it was magnified if you were in the state of NY with seemingly all funds understandably funneling to NYC to deal with that awful devastation of life, property, and financial resources.

It was my first real hard lesson as a CEO as to the challenges and dynamics of running a non-profit in a touch economic situation—a lesson I’m drawing upon and observing other cultural leaders following in their own personal way.

The times we are going through now remind me way too much of what we went through in Buffalo. At a time when the needs are rising for the services of non-profits—housing families, feeding individuals, providing financial counseling, giving families a much needed break from these challenges by visiting a museum , zoo, or cultural activity—the resources seem to be challenged from all sources.

These times bring risks about cuts in both government funds and corporate donations, and the endowments that many organizations draw upon are dropping dramatically. Individuals worried about their future scale back their giving when times are tough. But there is a significant problem I’ve found with the comparison between companies cutting back employees and services because their business have shrunk , and the inclination to expect that non-profits do the same thing at the same time. As I pointed out, our services tend to be needed now more than ever—the business (demand for services) of many non-profits actually goes UP while so much is going down.

So I have fond memories and appreciate deeply those individuals and corporations who recognize the importance of the services of many non-profits at a time like this and not just retain their level of giving, but in a number of notable cases increase it realizing the challenges to other traditional funding sources.

In this season of giving, I thank everyone who is willing and able to make the commitment to sustain or raise their level of giving so that non-profit organizations can serve the expanded service demands at this important time of community need. Please consider making a special gift to your favorite non-profit today. And maybe COSI is fortunate enough to be on your list. I assure you we will be good stewards of your generous gift. With support we will open opportunities for families to have a day away from concerns and connect children of all ages to inspiring explorations of real science – nurturing their potential to change the world in the positive fashion we’re counting on.

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