In these times, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations get hit hard.
The day after Barack Hussein Obama was declared 44th president of the United States, spirits were high.
Maureen Dowd wrote a column in The New York Times about the fact that white people were running around asking black people how they felt about the election. She guiltily admitted she did it herself; when she asked her mailman, he looked at her with "bemused disdain."
Jon Stewart joked that people were actually making eye contact in New York City, even on the subway.
Philadelphians, flush with pride after a World Series win and a strong swing-state showing, were jubilant. People on SEPTA transport of all kinds were smiling, high- fiving and talking excitedly about the next four years. People proudly sported their "I Voted for Change" stickers, and waited for the inevitable street-hawking of T-shirts showing Obama in a Phillies cap.
And yet, on Nov. 6, things were essentially back to normal, at least in Philly. When a woman holding a baby was unable to high-five a passing guy about the World Series (because she was holding the baby), he called her a bitchface.
Interracial squabbling returned to normal on SEPTA, and car horns stopped beeping in joy and solidarity and returned to blasting with punitive irritation.
Ah, Philly. How quickly the silver tarnishes.
The quick shift in mood almost certainly had to do with a reality that Obama was all too aware of, having won the election based on its grinding fact: The economy is simply awful. Recession, depression--whatever it is, if we could dig up Franklin D. Roosevelt and prop him in a Rascal right now we probably would.
There are obvious casualties of an economic downturn--children have less to eat, jobs dry up, homes lose value, people are forced to leave what they know and venture into the unknown.
The last thing they want to do, between job searches and panic attacks, is send money to a charity. Membership drives make people homicidal; I have an umbrella already, thanks. What I don't have is a job.
In these times, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations get hit hard. Charity is seen as a luxury, and donations--along with magazine subscriptions--are the first thing to go. In Saturday's New York Times, M.P. Dunleavy wrote, "The fallout from the financial crisis is striking nonprofit groups and charities fast and hard. As much as people might like to sit still until their own finances feel stable again, many nonprofit agencies need additional support now."
That's because needs for services surge when the economy is bad. "We have seen an increased need from people who are facing foreclosure, job loss and decreased work hours," the Rev. Michael M. Boland, chief executive of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, told Dunleavy. "We have seen an increase in the number of requests for our emergency services, which include food pantries and hot dinners for the hungry and homeless."
When you decide to be Charitable despite your hardships, it's sometimes hard to know where to start, and for which cause. And many people think giving to charities is only about money, which then makes them retreat, with a guilty shrug.
Fortunately, you can give meaningfully without opening your wallet. For this year's holiday guide, PW decided to focus on nine charities that we strongly feel deserve your time or attention or--hell, if you've got it--your money.
We start with a feature on the Philadelphia Student Union, an organization founded by Philadelphia public high school kids who got fed up with being at the whims of the School District. Their remarkable story is told by college student Becca Trabin, who was so inspired by what these kids are trying to do, she absolutely insisted we feature them at length.
PW's Holiday Guide 2014