The National Bureau of Economic Research told us last week that the Great Recession actually ended in June 2009. Happy days are here again! Fundraisers can finally breathe a sigh of relief, kick back and wait for the gifts to roll in like they did three years ago.
If you believe that, I have a ponzi-sch…, I, uh, I mean a hedge fund…you might like to invest in.
A phrase has been popping up more and more often in discussions about the post-recession economy: “the new normal.” It expresses the recognition that, even though there are many signs of economic recovery, what passed for the “old normal” is probably gone for good – or at least it is on an extended leave of absence. The days of high employment, easy credit, and fast growing investments that marked the middle of the last decade are not likely to return any time soon. That economic boom was built from feathers and wax as it turns out. As investors soared too close to the sun, their engines of prosperity melted and they crashed, taking the global economy – and global philanthropy – with them.
The new normal for the economy will mean less credit, slower rise in income, continued high unemployment for several more years, a higher savings rate and an accompanying reluctance to spend as freely as before.
As there is a new normal for the economy, there will also be a new normal for philanthropy. New, perhaps, but familiar. John Lippincot, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), says: “The new normal in educational advancement is a lot like the old normal–only harder. We haven’t seen fundamental changes in the way that fundraising is practiced or the keys to success in a fundraising operation. It still is very much about engagement, aligning donor interests with institutional vision, and good stewardship. Those things haven’t changed, but people have to do more of them to achieve, at best, similar results or in most cases, lesser results than they have grown used to.”
If he’s right, there’s some comfort in that. Fundamentally, the fundraising game hasn’t changed its rules, just the conditions under which the game is played. People give to people, not institutions. It is the fundraiser’s privilege and duty to seek out generous and capable people who want to help their fellow human beings. It is almost a form of midwifery. It is a personal act that happens one donor at a time.