Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Here's an Idea

[Note: I don't intend for this blog to be "political" yet I am aware that politics and current events might influence how I see a particular issue at times].

President-elect Obama is often speaking about his idea (among others) to stimulate the American economy by implementing a massive public works improvement plan. More bridges and highways, improved schools and libraries and hospitals, enhanced parks and open space, to name a few topics. The idea is to invest money in America, in American workers, in American infrastructure and this will be good for the economy overall. I'm no economist, but okay!

And I wonder...from my perspective as a person who works with leaders of non-profit organizations, what can be more to the core of who we are as a country than how we care for one another? In terms of a massive public works improvement plan, every American non-profit organization should be first in line to receive funds!

Every public homeless shelter and animal rights organization and civil rights task force and art museum and school and healthcare institution and domestic violence shelter and hospice and hotline and soup kitchen and youth sport team and English teacher in the inner city and prison librarian and pool lifeguard and social worker and community center volunteer should be considered first for the funds that will be made available to repair our country's infrastructure.

It is pretty simple: American non-profit organizations need trained volunteer boards of directors, qualified and trained and fairly compensated staff members who also receive health and other benefits, appropriate and safe and accessible and resourced facilities, support with planning for a sustainable future, computers and other useful equipment. Non-profit organizations need support for projects and equipment and staff specialists specific to the service they deliver. These non-profits need fundraisers who are trained and who have the resources to leverage a few gifts into many gifts. They need databases and web sites and file cabinets and lead-free paint and playground equipment and gallery space and veterinarian care. Unpaid staff people (and there are too many!) need to be paid for their tireless contributions and non-profit organizations need to move out of well meaning people's living rooms and into facilities more easily accessed by clients. We need to provide the resources so they can replace "basic services" with "we can provide you with what you need or we will link you to someone who can." Non-profit organizations should not have to have "sliding scale" fee structures or waiting lists; everyone should have service if they need it. Non-profit organizations should not have to choose between providing service or keeping the facility warm in winter.

I could go on!

I know a lot about non-profit organizations and the people who love them! No one can do more good with such limited resources than people who work for non-profit organizations. A massive investment in non-profit organizations--the human infrastructure of our country--when managed by people who demonstrate daily they can do so much with so little, would be a smart investment.

Now that's change!