Does it make sense for a nonprofit arts organization to ask a homeless person to contribute to a fund to buy an expensive painting for a museum? Does it make sense for a charity to ask a business that is going under to give a major gift to their organization? Does it make sense to ask an individual who has lost their home to foreclosure for a donation for an animal sanctuary? Does it make sense to ask a person who was recently downsized (laid off) at the end of their career to make a large pledge for a children’s summer program?
If you have read or watched the news over the past few months, you are aware that Greece is in some financial hot water. The country’s leaders have borrowed money to run their country for such a long time and at such an unsustainable rate, that they have dug themselves a hole so deep that they will probably never get themselves back in the black. They spent more money than they had coming in, and now that spending has come back to haunt them. They nearly left (or were forced out of) the Euro zone, and now they are forced to comply with more austerity measures in order to borrow more money so they can make a payment to their lenders. The fact is, they continued to spend more than they had, instead of making cuts and changes at an appropriate time, and now the chickens have come back to roost. The Greek people are not happy, the other countries in the European Union are not happy, and the economy there will suffer for years.
The state of Illinois, my birthplace and current home, is in a similar predicament. The irresponsible legislature and past governors have continued to spend money they did not have for years, signing contracts with scores of nonprofit organizations for human services, and provided grants for others, all the while skipping payments to their employee retirement system and taking out loans that they cannot pay back, and now their actions have come back to haunt the state.
Frustrated voters elected a new governor to turn things around, but also re-elected the same legislators who caused the mess in the first place, and problems continue here. The Legislature proposed a new budget with a gap of over four billion dollars, and Governor Bruce Rauner refuses to sign it into law. Many organizations have been informed that their contracts have been cancelled, and now many will have to reduce services and some will close their doors.
The financial messes in both, Greece and Illinois, have been going on for years, but many nonprofit organizations continued to exacerbate the problem by continuing to approach the governments for their financial support. And sadly, many still do seek more support from governments that do not have money. In Illinois, the state enacted a temporary tax hike that caused scores of businesses to leave the state for greener pastures, creating more unemployment and a lower revenue base.
I believe it is time for these nonprofit organizations to stop blaming the governor who is trying to fix a problem that has been brewing for years and years, and start blaming those who are truly responsible for their financial woes: The irresponsible politicians in the state capitol and those who look back at them in the mirror. They were aware of these financial issues, but refused to step away from the food trough. In my opinion, their willful blindness has sealed their fate.
It’s something called common sense.