D.C. and N.Y. Charities Reveal Recession Jitters in New Surveys
The recession’s impact is felt throughout the surveys’ results. For example, 32 percent of New York organizations, and 23 percent of Washington groups, said they expect staff salaries to stay the same in 2009.
Of those projecting raises for their employees, the largest percentage of New York groups—21 percent—predicted pay increases of between 2.6 percent and 3 percent. Washington groups were more optimistic; among organizations in that city predicting pay increases in 2009, the largest percentage—27 percent—predicted raises of 3.1 percent to 5 percent.
More than half of respondents from both cities—55 percent in New York and 53 percent in Washington—said they expect no cuts in employee benefits at their organizations this year.
Optimism and Pessimism
Washingtonians were more optimistic overall about their organizations’ plight in the coming year: Although 36 percent of respondents said they were pessimistic about their organization’s well being, 53 percent of New York respondents said the same.
Ms. Brandel, who works in New York, says this contrast jumped out at her from the surveys’ results.
“I asked my D.C. office about that, and I said, ‘Is it just that New Yorkers are more pessimistic?’ And they said, ‘Probably yes,’” she says.
But, she adds, the then-impending inauguration of President Obama may have also helped lift the morale of Washington’s nonprofit leaders, her colleagues told her. “The political change that was coming made everyone there sort of relieved in a sense. They were very excited about Obama’s team coming on board, and so they were looking forward to it. Everyone there had a sense of a new beginning, and so the optimism there was even greater than it usually is.”
Meanwhile, in New York, she notes, “Wall Street made everyone very unhappy here.”
In the shadow of the recession, though, she says she is surprised that charity managers in both cities maintain as much optimism as they do. Although some staff cuts have been made, she notes, her clients are also for the first time employing temporary workers to handle grant-proposal writing and other tasks.
“There’s a real resiliency in the sector,” Ms. Brandel says. “There are organizations that are just solidly doing what they need to do, and getting through the year, and making their cuts, and bringing in the people they need to bring in.”