Learning to cope

Tough times spur charities to change.

By Todd Cohen

The ailing economy is giving charities a needed shot in the arm.

Many charities act as if their good works should ensure their survival.

In a perfect world, tax dollars and private giving should help foot the bill for the critical job of healing and repairing our communities.

But our imperfect marketplace rewards innovation, resourcefulness and teamwork that deliver products and services efficiently and effectively.

And charities that show entrepreneurial drive reap marketplace rewards, a new report says.

Stressed by the economy, these nonprofits have adapted, says the report by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

In the face of often-severe fiscal stress, charities have launched new funding and program initiatives, cut or frozen spending, dipped into reserves, teamed up with other organizations and pushed to avoid cuts in support.

Those actions helped charities increase their services and revenue, the report says.

But those charities also heightened staff tension, found it tougher to recruit staff, and diverted their focus from their mission.

To thrive in tough times, charities need to keep changing, fixing themselves so they can help fix our communities.

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