Traditionally, nonprofit organizations have focused their annual budgets and fundraising on programs and necessary operating expenses. Few have budgeted set amounts for future major capital expenses or to replace depreciated assets. When it came time for a major capital expense, especially a new building, nonprofits would often seek major grants from foundations. In the past, foundations generally served as the main source of capitalization in the nonprofit sector. Since the 2008 recession, however, more and more foundations have shifted their grants towards funding operating expenses, new program initiatives and organizational sustainability.
Since the time of Thomas Malthus, an 18th century economist who predicted that the world would starve as population outgrew the food supply, economics has been called the dismal science. In today’s dismal time of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps it is appropriate for economics to brighten its reputation by helping to address some of the problems we are now experiencing. In particular, nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and in other countries are facing severe, indeed existential economic challenges. Many organizations have had to close their doors at least temporarily, cancel fundraising events, furlough staff, move to online operations and take other severe measures in order to survive and to comply with policies to protect public health. Others, such as foodbanks and hospitals, are hard-pressed to address new demands for services to vulnerable groups affected by the crisis.