Non-profit leaders need to get used to operating in a less supportive culture.
Charities continue to expand at an unsustainable rate: 60% growth in the last decade according to the New York Times (Stephanie Strom, 6 December 2009, A15). A number of these charities that gain tax exempt status have little to no charitable intent, and cannot demonstrate that their charitable actions offset their tax exemption. This creates a serious argument that there is greater competition for the charitable dollar, thus driving up fundraising costs and lessening the ministry or charitable impact of the dollar given. And that argument plays into the hands of those who would like to put nonprofits back on the tax rolls.
Urban areas continue to increase the strictness of zoning laws, making it more difficult for ministry organizations or nonprofits to locate themselves near to the people they serve (Business startups are running into similar hurdles but that is another story).
Nonprofits and ministry organizations (congregations especially) are not immune to our recent economic problems in North America. Lending agencies are rightfully and newly skittish to loan money to groups considered to be at high risk of default.
Donors and grantors are increasingly demanding about the use of their contributions. Tracking and reporting back to donors on an individual basis offsets the capacity of the organization to accomplish the mission the organization exists to serve.
Leaders must also get used to the idea that being a tax-exempt organization is not an inalienable right and that a number of predecessor and current organizations have helped to create the toxicity we all now experience.
Some of our leaders need to become heroes, not just competent executives, if we want to continue the contributions and great legacy of North American non-profit organizations.
-mark l vincent