Philanthropy can make a difference

North Carolina’s elected officials face a daunting task in the coming months.  The state’s budget shortfall approaches $4 billion — and unlike our federal government — we must adopt a balanced budget.  We are hearing that “everything is on the table,” and that deep cuts in both the state’s services and personnel are to be expected.

So what does this mean to the North Carolina nonprofit community?  I’m afraid it’s a familiar refrain: continue to do more with less.

Several statewide policy organizations recently held briefings on the effect of the current economy on our state’s nonprofits and what the sector can expect from the legislature during its current session. 

The news was not encouraging. During the last legislative session, state appropriations to nonprofits were cut 26 percent.  Those cuts, along with the simultaneous downturn in charitable giving, have made the environment even more challenging to nonprofits as they strive to fulfill mission-critical programming.

The statistics tell a grim story:  Forty percent of North Carolina’s nonprofits eliminated positions last year, either through lay-offs or attrition.  And 60 percent either cut or froze employees’ salaries.  Nonprofits were forced to cut program services by 33 percent last year, which was in addition to the 13 percent cut to services in 2009.

During the same period, demand for nonprofit services increased by 62 percent.

What does this mean for each of us?  We all need to make it a priority to be part of this dialogue. What services are important to us? What can we do to help support the most vulnerable people in our communities?

Now more than ever, philanthropy can make a difference. Our grants processes begin later this month. We are confident that our fund-holders will carefully consider the widespread and growing needs across North Carolina.