NH nonprofits are on a mission
On any ordinary day in New Hampshire, these things are happening:
• Volunteers at soup kitchens are serving meals to hundreds of men, women and children in need.
• At the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, sixth-graders are discovering and debating works of art. From Rochester to Concord to Lebanon, hundreds of people are attending plays and concerts and films at nonprofit arts venues.
• From Milford to Laconia, kids are playing volleyball, rehearsing plays, practicing music and doing homework at Boys & Girls Clubs.
• From North Conway to Jaffrey, people are hiking and food is being grown on land conserved by nonprofit land trusts.
• Solar panels installed by the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative are powering the lights at Whole Village Family Resource Center.
• Elders are eating dinner at their own kitchen tables — courtesy of Meals on Wheels.
• Attorneys from NH Legal Assistance are helping families avoid eviction.
• From Colebrook to Salem, people are getting well-researched, objective news from NH Public Radio.
• And at Hope on Haven Hill, new moms are recovering from addiction and caring for their babies in a safe and loving space.
That list represents just a tiny fraction of the ways in which thousands of nonprofit staff and volunteers serve our communities, our neighbors and our families on every ordinary day.
Of course, all of that is far from ordinary — it is astonishing and awe-inspiring and transformational. It is, in a word, extraordinary.
New Hampshire’s nonprofits are on a mission — to serve veterans and their families, to empower young leaders, to defend civil rights, to boost our economy, to conserve historic and natural treasures, to feed and care and shelter, to inspire and educate and challenge. That’s what New Hampshire needs, and that’s what nonprofits deliver. Every day. Every night. In every town and every city.
As extraordinary as that is, the people of the nonprofit sector bring something else that is equally profound: Every day, against overwhelming odds, these folks not only do the critical work, but also hold fast to the values that make American communities great. Things like hope. Integrity. Justice. Inclusion. Truth-telling. Love.
Maybe that’s why the public’s trust in the nonprofit sector remains high when faith in other institutions is falling.
Every day, I talk to nonprofit leaders and staff who show those values and that spirit even while struggling with very real challenges: growing demand for services, financial uncertainty, the difficulty of paying competitive salaries — and a concern that, despite their best efforts, too many of their clients are still falling behind due to larger social and economic inequities.
In the private sector, more customers mean more revenue. But the inverse is most often true for nonprofits: Having more “business” — people to feed, kids to mentor, artists to celebrate, patients to heal, ecosystems to restore — does not mean you have more revenue to keep up with demand. The Charitable Foundation did a study not long ago that showed that most of the foundation’s grantees — including large, well-known organizations — operate with only a couple months’ cash in reserve. And yet they make it work. They stay on mission.
And they deserve stronger and deeper support, perhaps now more than ever.
Like its grantees, the Charitable Foundation is a nonprofit, created by and for the people of New Hampshire. Nearly 2,000 individuals and families and businesses have established funds at the foundation, pooling their resources to create a permanent and flexible source of philanthropic capital for a place they all love.
That generosity has allowed the foundation to distribute almost $600 million in grants and scholarships since 1962 (including $46 million last year) and also fuels current strategic collaborations with hundreds of partners to increase youth opportunity, prevent and treat addiction, create more accessible pathways from school to work and to encourage increased public investment in health care and early education. We are honored to be able to support the organizations that are doing such critical work for our state.
“Nonprofits,” a friend and colleague wrote to me recently, “provide spirit, healing, vocation, human connection, vision, and courage — basically the color and richness for people and our planet.”
I have worked in New Hampshire’s nonprofit sector for 35 years. And I have never been more proud or inspired to be part of this community than I am right now — when our nation and our world most need the qualities that nonprofits bring.
Richard Ober is president and CEO of the NH Charitable Foundation.