A new year always brings opportunity, doesn’t it? As a kid, and later as a school teacher, August or September always signaled my new year. A new school year meant a new routine, new pencils, a blank calendar. It was a literal “fresh slate,” a chance to reset. I get nostalgic just thinking about it. It’s not much different now except my new year finally coincides with the calendar.

So it’s time to do two things:

  1. Assess current realities, and;
  2. Forge ahead with wisdom, creativity, energy, and renewed vision.

We all know the past two years have been incredibly challenging. And it’s not over. Much has already been written and studied about the nonprofit space during the pandemic and its ripple effects on those we serve. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, in a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve System in August of 2021:

  • More than 75 percent of respondents indicated that demand for their services increased compared with pre-pandemic levels. We certainly know this is true for those we serve in India.
  • Almost half (45%) noted a decrease in their ability to meet those needs.
  • Expenses increased for nearly three-quarters of the responding organizations.
  • Staffing levels were down for more than 40% of these nonprofits.
  • Individual donations and corporate donations were each down for nearly half of the nonprofits – and significantly down for nearly a quarter.
  • Foundation contributions were down for 32% of respondents, but did go up for 40%.
  • A bright spot: government funds increased for nearly 60% of the nonprofits.

You can find complete data on this survey here, but suffice it to say it has been a difficult season for our sector. Other surveys, including the Nonprofit Trends and Impacts 2021 survey by the Urban Institute and the 2021 Giving USA Report echo these findings.

As might be expected with any study, there is another perspective, however. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) suggests both donors and donations actually increased in 2020. To analyze this discrepancy in data, the National Council of Nonprofits “spoke with Ben Miller, Chief Analytic Officer of DonorTrends and Vice Chair of the FEP, to seek clarity. Ben explained, ‘An important nuance to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s reports is that we are measuring the average increase in donors and dollars. For 2020, this could be misleading because, while in total there were more donors and dollars as compared to 2019, the majority of organizations actually saw decreases in both [emphasis added]. While donations increased by 10.6 percent on average, the median result was actually a 6.6 percent decrease in donations. Donors increased by 7.3 percent on average, but the median was down by 7.6 percent. This means that the majority of nonprofits saw declines in both donations and donors in 2020, even though more people donated more money.’”

What does this mean for DFN? How have we been impacted? It’s true: we lost more donors than we gained in 2020 and 2021. With churches shut down for a long period of time and in-person events impossible, we simply could not carry on with business as usual. We couldn’t meet with donors face-to-face. Like many of you, we were stuck at home. The needs in India were increasing exponentially, yet our status quo was no longer possible.

And yet…you showed up.

You continued your child sponsorship donations even when schools shut down. Your gifts enabled teachers to be paid, remote learning to ramp up, and even provided food for hungry families. Your COVID crisis donations provided even more food (more than 2 million meals now!), established 50 new telehealth clinics (most in existing school buildings), provided PPE and home care kits, trained new community health workers, and even opened a mini-hospital for sick patients who were turned away from overflowing government hospitals. On top of that, you provided scholarships for 652 girls at highest risk for human trafficking in 2020, and you are ensuring 1173 children orphaned by COVID are safe and sound for the next year.

Indeed …you showed up.

Thank you!

So here we are at the start of 2022. I am hopeful for a brighter year, yet I am aware that we still live in a state of flux. I am committed to leading DFN USA and serving our Indian sisters and brothers with integrity and authenticity. I am prepared to adapt, to learn, to be proactive. Above all, I am absolutely and forever enamored with India. With her beauty and diversity. With her people. With her complexity.

And as we embark on another year, I am reminded of who DFN is, why we exist, and why we show up, too. We seek to right injustice. We seek dignity and freedom for every person in every village. And we stand squarely on our core values.

Love Activates Us

Believing every person is created in the image of a loving God, we stand in solidarity with anyone who has faced discrimination because of race, income, gender, education, nationality, beliefs, or any other barrier that inhibits equal opportunity or diminishes human dignity. Our highest aspiration is to manifest God’s love to His creation by our actions and with our words.

Compassion Motivates Us

We have compassion for any person who has borne the weight of oppression, and we stand with those society has left behind. We seek to listen and to magnify the voices of the oppressed because we believe hearing from those who historically have had no voice can lead to mutual understanding and ultimately, societal change.

Service Leads Us

We serve the left out and the left behind. We come alongside those who are beaten down by society or circumstance. We offer restoration of their God-given dignity, a belief in each person’s inherent worth, and we follow this with tangible actions that enable people to experience educational, economic, and spiritual freedom.

Transformation Drives Us

We believe in the transformation and restoration of broken things. People, systems, and societies can be transformed by recognizing our shared humanity as God’s creation, understanding there are systemic barriers to equality, and relentlessly pursuing justice for every person.

Mission Unites Us

We stand united in our mission of seeking dignity and freedom for every person, in every village. And we will work tirelessly for justice until that day.

This is who we have always been. This is who we are now. This is who we will be in the future.

This is DFN. And this is where we stand.

I invite you to join us in 2022 to free more children, empower more women, and lift up more families.

Because every life is worth fighting for.