Our Common Endeavor: A Perspective on 2012 and on to 2013

January 2, 2013

By John Kobara

2012 was a year of ups and downs reflecting our economy, an election year and our collective sense of uncertainty. The deep structural impacts of the recession continue to challenge nonprofits and their donors. The division between the haves and have-nots was also evident with nonprofits here in Los Angeles. Charitable giving and granting rose during the year; CCF is seeing giving this year comparable to pre-2008 levels, but most nonprofits will tell you they did not see it. Planned giving is on the rise, driven by increased profits and the transfer of wealth. Many smaller and medium sized nonprofits are shifting their mixes of revenues and income but not fast enough to get planned gifts. On the other hand, UCLA and USC each raised more than $1 billion last year. And so the gap between the rich and the poor widens.

The philanthropic highlight of the year was Endeavour’s extraordinary arrival to the City of Angels. The flyover to the tow through the streets and the exhibition in its temporary residence at the California Science Center saw kids of all ages mesmerized and inspired. The Science Center, NASA, the City, and the donors have to be acknowledged for their advocacy and success in acquiring this iconic gem.

For me the Endeavour shows how much we long for inspiration, for a collective sense of community, and for something all children can literally and figuratively look up to with pride. The Endeavor revealed our potential. It brought us together by breaking down the perceived and real barriers that separate us. It was amazing.

How do we achieve this connection to one another more frequently? To realize our potential?

Our nonprofits have to articulate their stories AND the difference they make in the community with as much evidence as emotion. By the same token, our media has to feature the amazing things these nonprofits do. Donors have no idea that the world’s needs, and some of the greatest nonprofits, are here in LA. The untold story of one of the largest and most diverse non-profit communities in the world is a loss for all of us.

Sadly, the unmet needs in our community continue to grow while we have become numb to them. How can we come together, all neighborhoods, communities, social classes, ethnicities, religions, and age groups to understand our interconnectedness more than our separateness? How can we come together for more than a championship and a flyover? How do we each give a little more so we can all benefit?

That is our challenge in 2013. The economy seems better and for some it is better; however, for most, the challenges of day to day living are brutal. My greatest fear is we slip back into our old habits where we allow the centrifugal forces to pull us apart again. We will again look to the skies for a sign of hope. And then we will have to look in the mirror for our solutions.


John E. Kobara is California Community Foundation’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

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