Panelists Discuss The Future of Nonprofits in Santa Barbara
Free Event Addresses the Prospects of the Not-for-Profit Sector
Thursday, November 20, 2008
For-profit companies certainly have been in the limelight lately. In the general scramble to save banks and investments, one major sector of the nation’s economy, which equally has been affected, generally has been overlooked: nonprofit organizations, which both provide employment and administer many essential services.
On November 24, a group of Santa Barbara nonprofit gurus will meet at Victoria Hall for a public discussion titled The Future of Nonprofits in Santa Barbara. Moderated by John Romo, former president of Santa Barbara City College, the talk will cover the challenges currently facing nonprofit organizations, among them the economic downturn and the imminent retirement of many members of the Baby Boom generation, who currently occupy most executive positions in area nonprofits.
These issues-the economy and staffing difficulties-are related intimately. Both Romo and Lisa Holden, executive director of the Nonprofit Support Center (NSC), suggested in recent phone interviews that as the cost of living rises, fewer young people, such as recent college grads, are willing or able to take the salary cut that working for a nonprofit often requires. “People who work in the nonprofit arena tend to do it for a while, and then move on,” Romo said. Holden voiced the same concern, saying, “There’s high staff turnover, and nonprofits are unable to pay people what they deserve to be paid.”
This issue, however, has a potential solution, at least in part; the future of our nonprofits may be secured by outreach to young people just about to enter the workforce. One purpose of the November 24 discussion is to unveil a collaboration between the NSC and the Capps Center at UCSB: an ambitious new internship project. The Community Internship Program aims to match UCSB students interested in volunteerism with area groups in need of assistance, which is not, as Holden acknowledges, precisely a new idea. What makes this program fresh is its emphasis on “something meaningful for both” the student and the organization, Holden said. “Often, interns are brought into a nonprofit and just given a chair,” but in this case, “there’s far more attention given to their experience.” The program will also be analyzed and evaluated carefully for effectiveness.
Even with the addition of young employees and volunteers, however, Santa Barbara nonprofits still face funding challenges-a subject that will likely be the primary focus of the discussion. Most nonprofit organizations subsist on a mix-the composition of which varies from group to group-of government grants, grants from private foundations, and gifts from individual donors. All of these sources have been affected by the current economic situation: Invested endowments have dropped in value, the State of California is facing a major budget crisis, and individual donors, as Romo commented, are often too anxious about personal finances to give.