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  • Pat Libby

Help prove it doesn’t have to be this way

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Yesterday I went to the funeral of a person I didn’t know but had heard a lot about. She was a long-time member of my husband’s bowling team who, at the age of 99, continued to throw strikes in the 10th frame.

Being in the room with the mourners took my breath away. Not because of the amazing stories about the deceased, but because many of the participants were missing multiple teeth and wearing stained clothing.

It brought me back to a report I read last month – The San Diego Foundation Economic Equity Report – that detailed the profound financial disparity that exists in San Diego. One in ten families here lives below the federal poverty level ($24,860 or less annually for a family of four). In real numbers that comes to 335,000 San Diegans including some 86,000 children.

The report states, “An alarming number of San Diegans are struggling to pay for their housing and other basic needs.” 35% do not make self-sufficient wages.

At the same time, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that food banks and other social service charities – both in San Diego and across the country – are biting their fingernails to the quick as donors retrench. A Chronicle survey of 1,000 fundraisers revealed:

  • 70% thought “Economic uncertainty has caused some donors to reduce the amount they give.”

  • 59% thought “Economic uncertainty has caused donors to stop giving.”

  • 50% responded “Some donors have directly reported postponing gifts due to the economy.

The bottom line is that many charities are failing to reach their funding targets at the same time that the demand for their services is skyrocketing. As an example, Mama’s Kitchen, which provides medically-tailored home delivered meals to low-income people has seen a 100% increase in clients during the last three years.

What can YOU do about it?

  1. Instead of buying your favorite person* a cashmere sweater, consider making a charitable gift in their name.

  2. Read the San Diego Foundation Report and then dig deeper into your wallet.

  3. If you employ people, think long and hard about the cost of living wherever you live. If it’s high, consider giving people raises even if it means raising prices for your customers.

  4. Get involved in lobbying and advocacy! YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE by letting your voice be heard!

The information I’ve shared in this blog isn’t surprising to the nonprofit leaders I know in San Diego. Here are a few suggestions of where you might give this year:

Champions for Health to support free healthcare to low-income and uninsured people

San Diego County Dental Foundation to help people with free dental care.

Mama's Kitchen to feed medically-vulnerable low-income people.

San Diego Housing Federation to engage in advocacy for affordable housing

Serving Seniors to support food, housing and services for seniors

Dreams for Change to help families who are living in their cars

This is a San Diego-centric blog but the message applies no matter where you live. Thankfully, good nonprofits exist in every corner of our country and world.

Let’s all prove that it doesn’t have to be this way.


*As long as this person isn’t a child. Kids need presents!


Pat Libby is a change management consultant working principally with nonprofit corporations. She is author of The Empowered Citizens Guide: 10 Steps to Passing a Law that Matters to You, Oxford University Press, The Lobbying Strategy Handbook, second edition, Oxford University Press, and Cases in Nonprofit Management, SAGE. She has served as an academic, senior executive, board member, and consultant to innumerable nonprofit organizations and foundations for more than three decades.

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