True confessions: ten days ago I freaked out.

I’m an optimist by nature. You know that “Is the glass half-full or half-empty” question? My standard answer is that it’s always full. It’s always got something in it: air, liquid, something. I regularly blog in the economic impact on philanthropy and how Americans remain generous, even in tough times like these.

But when I read that Circuit City was closing, something in me snapped like the tube inside one of those glow sticks you see at county fairs.

I started panicking. Maybe the economy really was as bad as the media is saying. That is a big chain and thousands of employees will be losing their jobs. What in the world was I thinking asking people for money every day? Was I that callous and out of touch with reality? How in the world would I reach my fundraising goals at the hospital if everyone was losing their jobs? Was attempting to fundraise really just lying to myself and my board?

I even wondered if I should leave the nonprofit field altogether.

It was bad.

Fortunately, I have a strong association of colleagues. I sent an “I’m-trying-not-to-sound-panicked” email to a planned giving person in Bangor, Chris Cox, asking what Healthcare Charities was doing to respond to the present economy. His response was a simple:

We are obviously monitoring the situation, but continuing to implement existing plans, plus adding strategies to try and offset any potential downturns in service lines.

I needed to hear that. His brief, matter-of-fact, email cut through the gloom. It was as though he were saying, “This wasn’t totally unexpected. And it certainly isn’t the end of the world.”

Then I ran my fundraising numbers. Overall giving is a down from last year, but our annual fund is actually ahead of last year, both in dollars and in number of donors. I’m sure that this will be a tough year, but all is not lost.

If you’re not part of an association of fundraising professionals, I strongly encourage you to join one. Check out Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, New England Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, Association of Fundraising Professionals, or any of the discussion lists at CharityChannel.com. There are a number of terrific state and regional associations too. Many of these organizations have places on Facebook or LinkedIn. You can reach out to others right from your desk.

This year, we’re going to need to remind each other over and over that this isn’t the end of the world. Whatever you do, don’t go it alone.

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