Where I Read ‘Ice Age’ To Describe Philanthropic Climate

A  number of people gasped Wednesday afternoon when I made a comment at the joint meeting of the Community Service Public Relations Council and the International Association of Business Communicators.

During the panel discussion, it was clear that corporate giving in St. Louis might never return to what it once was. Furthermore, businesses and corporations across the nation are more focused on survival than their philanthropic role or image as a corporate citizen.

I made a comment at the end of the discussion that nonprofits should be looking to businesses to engage their employees as volunteers and begin the process of cultivating them as donors because corporate philanthropy appears to be heading for an ice age.

I read that term in a Nov. 9, 2010, article on the Washington Post website: Nonprofits struggle to survive and maintain services. Here’s the paragraph that caught my attention:

Since the economy began to plummet, Chuck Bean, executive director of an association of local charities, the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, has pushed organizations to make lasting changes such as shedding nonessential duties, sharing back-office functions, reducing staff size and in some cases merging with other groups. His core message, he said, was this: “If you think this is a storm, or you can batten down the hatches, maybe tap into your reserves and the storm will pass and things will go back to normal, then you’re wrong. I think of this as less of a storm and more like an ice age.

I sincerely hope that businesses and corporations will maintain or enhance levels of philanthropic giving in St. Louis and throughout the nation. But nonprofits cannot rely on previous levels. And nonprofit communicators will be critical to help organizations develop communications strategies that will increase volunteers and advocates and convert them to donors.

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