Jostling with the big hogs

Watching TV these days, you can’t miss the financial services, banks, automakers and others squirming their way through congressional hearings as they try to shore up their industries. Nonprofit leaders would have liked to appear before the Congress to plead our case, but we couldn’t afford to put gas in our corporate jets.

Nonprofits experience the impact from economic stress and increasing social problems before, and long after, any other segment of American industry. At a time when a record number of people will come to appreciate the benefits and will require the services that the nation’s nonprofits can provide—from protecting green space to providing jobs and health care—we should be full speed ahead.

According to the 2008 Nonprofit Almanac, when compared to other sectors of the economy, the entire nonprofit sector accounts for 5 percent of gross domestic product and makes up 8 percent of wages and salaries paid in the U.S.—providing many jobs and having a substantial impact at the local economic level. In North Carolina, nonprofits provide more than 212,000 jobs—6 percent of all jobs in the state.

A letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, sent out last week, urges him to consider assisting our nation’s nonprofit sector during this very difficult time, [in order] to uphold the vital work of not-for-profit organizations across the nation. The request proposed helping nonprofits offset downward trends in foundation and individual giving for organizations that support the community. At stake is the great contribution made by our nation’s nonprofits, which enrich and enliven our communities and improve the quality of life for all citizens. I am not sure that any other industry can deliver such a return on the public’s investment.

Okay, this request will probably not see the light of day, but maybe we have jostled for some space with the big hogs at the feeding trough. And maybe this will help increase our community support despite these trying economic times. And maybe we can find a buyer for our corporate jets before that market falls out.

We can’t count on the government to help us out. Remember those that serve the community during these difficult times and make a resolution to continue your support.

— Mark Shelley, executive director
Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition

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