10 Years Later: A Look At The Impact of 9/11 On Nonprofits And Giving

Sep 12, 2011

As most of the country spent yesterday, September 11, remembering and reflecting on the day of immense tragedy that took place 10 years ago, we also recounted that day, and how its events changed the course of our lives, businesses, outlook and, well, the world.

If you think about it, the period of 2001 to 2011 could go down in history as the “decade of disasters.”

Beginning with 9/11, threats of WMD, two (many will argue unnecessary) wars, a deep and still lingering recession bookended with a spate of natural disasters both at home and in every corner of the globe, and not least an extremely noxious political climate that threatens to divide the country: It’s hardly surprising that society’s capacity to empathize and to give often to charitable causes has diminished.

It’s The Economy Stupid

Of course, it’s important to remember the first victims of the “disaster decade,” even if a myriad of other events have shared the spotlight since, but a still-weak economy remains a sewer-sized drain on America’s almost empty wallets and has undoubtedly affected the bottom line of every nonprofit organization.

Data released last year (the most recent figures we have available) revealed that charitable giving dropped by a hefty 11 percent compared to 2009. At that time, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in a Harris Interactive poll said they would be giving less than they were 12 months ago.

Worse still, the number of respondents who said they would be giving nothing as of last September doubled to 12 percent.

In the year since that report, the private sector has added a million new jobs (1.6 million from September ’10 to August ’11; 1.7 million from August ’10 to August ’11 – both figures seasonally adjusted from US Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

That may sound encouraging, but when you consider that at the height of the 2008 recession, American payrolls were contracting by some 800,000 jobs per month, it’s clear there is a very long way to go – in terms of job creation and rebuilding a society of Americans who have the capacity to give.

Today, some 14 million of our friends, families, and strangers remain out of work and the jobless predicament remains dire.

Perhaps we should look close to home and at our own neighbors to reignite our sense of empathy? Perhaps we should re-start our giving mindset by helping our fellow Americans – those 14 million who are jobless and in many cases homeless.  Their lives, after all, could have been ours. Perhaps 9/11 should be renamed Our National Day of Service, where Americans help fellow Americans – in any way they can.

Because charity begins right at home – around the corner, up the stairs, or across the street.  Perhaps then we can start to look outward again and start helping those organizations that rely on us to support their worthwhile causes and those in need.

Join us on I will to make your commitment to helping others in any way you can.

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