Forecast for 2018: Cloudy

How will 2018 shake out for our nonprofit sector in Santa Barbara County? What will be the medium- and long-term effects on non-disaster related agencies of the devastation our community faced (and is still facing) through the Thomas Fire and ensuing debris flows?

The forecast for fundraising in Santa Barbara in 2018 is cloudy. There are more questions than answers about how the events of this winter will affect our budgets (not to mention our hearts and minds) for the year, but it’s not too soon to think about how we might need to adjust our preparations for the year ahead. This article is focused on the operational planning questions, recognizing that addressing the trauma and second-degree trauma our community will continue to face is a larger and ongoing issue.

The responses coming in to the NPRN survey carry a few key themes:

Take The Thomas Fire/Mudslide Impact Survey
  • This is going to be a difficult year for many: for those directly affected by the disasters; for area businesses, and for nonprofits, especially those that play critical roles in the community but don’t work directly in disaster recovery and relief.
  • Nearly all nonprofits who have responded so far have experienced impacts to programs, services and fundraising, AND about half of those agencies note that we do not yet know the full extent of those impacts.
  • Nonprofits are an essential part of what makes our community resilient.
  • Preparedness, resilience, and coordination are high priorities for our community’s nonprofits.

We are all living in a disaster-affected community. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.  The full cost to the community of these disasters is not yet known; nor is the reaction of the broader funding community. Disaster experts we have spoken with warned that the economic impacts will be significant and to start your preparation now. Will grant-makers shift priorities for the year? When will the time be right to re-engage with your supporters who were directly affected? County-funded agencies will surely experience repercussions from the revenue losses and additional expenses faced by our county.  As the Santa Barbara Foundation’s website says, “With both natural and human-caused disasters occurring more frequently and with greater severity, the need for financial resources to support nonprofit and government response and recovery efforts is growing exponentially.”

Before the disasters struck, our sector was already facing the uncertainty of the new tax bill. It’s too soon to know exactly how the tax bill will affect us. It’s too soon to measure the full impact of the recent disasters. But it’s not too soon for all of us to shift our perspective towards resilience, for this year and beyond.

I heard one funder say, “2018 will be a year of funding needs, not wants.” Another donor,  a Montecito resident, mentioned her surprise when approached recently by a local nonprofit who didn’t ask if she was affected or mention the disasters. (That agency didn’t get the donation they were seeking). Here are a few ideas about what to do now and how to prepare for the rest of the year. Let’s do this together: what else do YOU think our nonprofit community should be thinking about or acting on for 2018?  Please leave your reply in the comment section below.

We’ll also report to the NPRN community as funders bring programs online to respond to the disasters. Here’s the beginning of a list of local resources:

We’ll keep this list updated, and we want to hear back from you. Please make sure you or someone at your agency has completed the Thomas Fire/ Mudslide Impact Survey, and let us know what other topics are on your mind as we collectively strive towards recovery.

By Michelle Howard of The Write Team

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