June 3, 2024

After The Cameras Are Gone

Recent storms have wrung the last ounce of reserves out of every helper – and helping organization. The cameras are gone now. Emergency responders (those we make heroes) are standing down. Power is back. There are no more photos ops or press conference- able announcements.

But the wreckage is everywhere. What little people had put aside for graduation or a new/old car or the dentist  got sucked right out of that hole in their roof. They are still fixing what they can and wondering what to do about the rest. They have to go to work and get the kids to school and manage the “project” that is recovery. Repairs and food and replacing what they can. And applying for help in the small chance they’ll find their way through some indecipherable maze of eligibility. More people are hungry than before. More living with the threat of homelessness.

I saw more people disheartened by this series of storms than I have seen in the past. More HELPERS disheartened by this series of storms, landing as they did in the midst of a month when we thought we would be preparing, not live performing.

In my more cynical moments I have said about this work :

The private sector does everything for which there is profit to be made. The public sector tackles everything for which there is political credit to be won. Everything else – that which generates no profit nor garners credit – is assumed to be the work of the social sector.

The social sector I see today is exhausted, depleted and under resourced for what’s asked of it. Leaders of nonprofits are drained, plagued by out of touch and clueless boards, demanding and difficult funders. Staffs are drowning in waves of human need – systemic gaps, Grand Canyon sized, they cannot fill. Social sector nonprofits are running on empty – financially and emotionally.

The only way to stay sane is to renegotiate these expectations. To hold the line on commitments so that the gaps aren’t being filled at the expense of those still helping. Preserving and resourcing our institutions of support, harnessing generosity toward smart ways of helping, these must be our priorities.

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