On Tuesday October 1st, the United States government shutdown for the first time in 17 years. Who is out of work? With exceptions, most agencies without any funding from outside the federal government are forced to send “non essential” workers home, and “essential ” workers will have delayed pay checks. So what does this mean for the numerous nonprofit organizations who receive government funding? It looks like many nonprofit organizations are just going to have to wait it out. The interesting thing is, a time of a government shutdown leads to high demand for nonprofit organizations to help the community; but how the nonprofit organization is affected as a whole will depend on how long this period lasts.
In the Huffington Post, Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits response to the public states, “While business as usual in Washington focuses on partisan posturing and personal positioning, the business of serving communities doesn’t stop. Indeed, the needs of the people have escalated due to the all-too-steady stream of actual and threatened government slowdowns, shutdowns, and meltdowns. That’s why charitable nonprofits do all they can to keep their doors open to serve local communities across America”.
Feeding America addresses that depending on how long the shutdown lasts, programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP- formally known as food stamps) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) could be in danger as they currently only have enough funding to make it through October. If this persists, people who currently get assistance from these programs will seek alternative non profit solutions. Areawide Aging Agency , in Oklahoma, is one nonprofit organization receiving federal funding that could be affected soon. In an article on NewsOK, Marnie Taylor, executive director of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits states, “While in Washington they’re fighting to close doors, here we’re fighting to keep them open”.
Other organizations don’t have until the end of October. Meals on Wheels is getting hit by the government shutdown hard. In an article on mlive, Meals on Wheels executive director Alison Foreman states, “We get about $250k from the federal government so it’s more than half of our budget. If they don’t reach an agreement by Friday we won’t be getting any money on Monday to pay for the food.”
Each of these organizations are now faced with handling this situation in a way that they’re reputation will not be a stake. The Situational Crisis Communication Theory by W. Timothy Coombs states that when an organization is threatened they need to react with a communication media strategy. How they are framed in the media will persuade the views of the organization to their publics. Not communicating possible threats is the worst thing they can do. After all, this is all that nonprofit organizations can do in a crisis like this while they wait for a government decision.
I am so sorry that current college students have grown up in an era of some of the most dysfunctional and immature leadership this country has known. What will be interesting to keep an eye on is how the NPOs respond in ways that are consistent with the narrative of their cause. If they claim to empower those in hardship will their response to this crisis ring true to that narrative? But beyond branding is real harm to real people because our leaders want to grandstand rather than collaborate. Like they say on TV: “Don’t try this at home!”