October 15, 2013

Charities Step Up When Government Shuts Down

Author National Philanthropic Trust

Nonprofit organizations have long served a critical role in bridging the gaps between government services and public need. But what happens when government services stop almost entirely?

The government shutdown began almost three weeks ago. Since then, nonprofits and private donors have rallied to the frontlines of communities in need.

The stories are heartening: a $10 million dollar donation to keep Head Start available to its neediest children; a New Hampshire University offering scholarships to active-duty military personnel whose government tuition support has been halted; government employees who have donated their furloughed time to area public service.

It is inspiring—but transferring public need to nonprofits and private donors is not sustainable.

Most nonprofits are still recovering from the recession and working with limited resources. Even the most MEGA of mega-gifts could only cover a small portion of the cost of supplementing the halted government services. Reports estimate that the economic losses from the shutdown range from $160 – 300 million per day.

The long-term impact of the shutdown on nonprofits will remain to be seen. Until then, we can only hope that we’re not creating a “new normal” for nonprofits or the communities who receive their good works.