2008 highlights and lowlights in the nonprofit sector

We’re taking a break this week from Nonprofit 911 to bring you some of the highlights (and lowlights) of 2008 for the nonprofit sector.

Highlights

1. Barack Obama is elected. Along with extensive personal experience in the nonprofit sector, he outlines detailed plans to get Americans involved in public service and to give nonprofits the same opportunities for research and development that private sector companies have. Partisan politics lessen as many get behind the president and his proposed changes.

2. In the face of a dismal economy, nonprofits undergo a paradigm shift, reexamining their programs to make sure they are mission-critical, considering mergers and reassessing how to best serve their clients.

3. Nonprofits come together to form the V3 campaign, a consortium of nonprofits dedicated to making sure the voices of nonprofit organizations are heard by politicians. The V3 campaign has contacted politicians across the country and asked them to lay out precisely how they plan to work with nonprofits and advance their causes. Many have responded. To see their responses and get involved with V3, click here.

Lowlights

1. The stock market plummets. Government bailout does little to stem the flow and no sector is immune, particularly the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits watch as foundations cut back (or stop giving to new applicants entirely) and client loads at nonprofits providing human services increase as unemployment soars.

2. Charitable foundations cut back, or change giving patterns after losing significant amounts of their endowments in the stock market, with many reporting 20 percent to 30 percent drops in their endowments, according to a Philanthropy News Digest article. In Colorado, the Levinson Foundation, Johnson Foundation, Bonfill-Stanton Foundation, Freauff Foundation, Kenneth King Foundation, Schlessman Family Foundation and Daniels Fund all announce changes or cuts in funding. Despite cuts, one major survey predicts that foundation budget decreases will be far less than after September 11.

3. Bernard Madoff, former Nasdaq chairman, is arrested and charged with swindling individuals and foundations out of at least $50 billion dollars. At least four foundations have announced that they would be closing their doors after losing all of their investments to Madoff. Numerous other foundations lose massive chunks of their assets and teeter on the brink of shutting down.

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