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“The Perfect Storm” and the South Asian Council for Social Services

March 29, 2009

This recent piece in The Nation is quite a scary retelling of how the economic crisis is impacting nonprofits of all kinds.  Not only are people’s savings being depleted, but the Madoff scandal’s impact on private foundations (which we’ve written about here), and the feeling among some donors of being ‘tapped out’ after the presidential election, are all contributing to a “perfect storm” that is shutting down nonprofit programs and services, and leading to staff layoffs.

Although the article meanders to cover a bit too much ground in one story, it does touch on the responsibility of those foundations (and I would argue, individuals too) to give more than they might in any ordinary year.  The needs out there are simply too great, with communities negatively affected by the economic crisis and in need of these nonprofit services.

One of the organizations profiled is the South Asian Council for Social Services:

“… Sudha Acharya, executive director of the South Asian Council for Social Services, … [has] just taken a 50 percent pay cut that, along with a 15 percent cut imposed on her staff, has enabled her agency to keep its doors open, for now. Located on the ground floor of a brick building on a noisy commercial drag in Flushing, Queens, SACSS is the sort of agency most at risk of not making it through the downturn: a shoestring operation that could disappear tomorrow with few people noticing, save for the hundreds of South Asian immigrants who rely on it for job training courses and healthcare workshops that help clients navigate a byzantine system even many native New Yorkers find impenetrable. (Among people in the state without health benefits, fully half are eligible but either don’t know they are or can’t figure out how to apply.)

Acharya says her organization stays afloat on a mix of foundation support, corporate donations, individual contributions and community funds but is seeing money from all sources dry up. The agency recently had to scrap an English-language class it had been offering in the Bronx; it has kept other services intact despite receiving no money for them.”

(Hat tip @rosettathurman)

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