Short answer: For starters, intentionally work together more through trusted southern Illinois nonprofits in a concerted, win (climate) – win (economy) – win (huamanity), grassroots effort to help all southern Illinoisans prosper and to create a better future for upcoming generations.

The Forefront State of the Sector Report: Nonprofits and Grantmaking 2021 showed that all of the 16 southern-most Illinois counites are “serviced” by at least one nonprofit that responded to the survey, but only one (Jackson) has a “funders” organization.

Also in southern Illinois, we have so many people who need help, and it’s really hard to reach all of them. For one thing, we’re so spread out. Other reasons include the high percentage in poverty generation after generation, bad health, low education levels, lack of good-quality jobs, struggling small businesses, high lack of good internet access, and the list goes on.

The truth is, many people, no matter their neighborhood, income, life history or religious preference, could use the help. Many often feel like they have nowhere to turn or are turned away from by others, and are stuck in terrible jobs and living paycheck to paycheck. They may have been told, “that’s just the way it’s always been, and always will be.” These people are often women and children, minorities, returning citizens and the poor. They love their families, homes and communities and want to make a better future for their children and future generations.

Local nonprofits and their supporters provide various levels and types of services to help people. I have been working with nonprofits since I moved to southern Illinois in 2005. The nonprofits and their people here are amazingly dedicated despite the many difficulties they encounter. There are so many people in southern Illinois who care and want to do something, and will often help out in their sparse spare time to volunteer if they can. There are a limited number of big donors and they are already maxing out. Adequate levels of funding are scarce, as is the internal capacity to go after big grants in most cases. Many nonprofit workers are paid minimal or no salaries, and are needing help themselves. And often for big grants one needs statistics and proof of years of success, and often that is hard for grassroots organizations and nonprofits to come by. They all love their families, homes and communities and want to make a better future for their children and future generations. So, we have the will, but not always the way.

Southern Illinois can and must do better for ALL its people of ALL of our diverse types, but how?

We know that most of the time, the reason nonprofit efforts don’t succeed is because of the lack of adequate funding, and that’s surely a reason in southern Illinois. Simple. We have community fundraising and volunteer efforts as much as people in southern Illinois can handle, and still funding is short. Nonprofits need money to pay their people to do the jobs, to get new programs off the ground, and take time to apply for grants and other funding. It’s absolutely crucial to have the money. Otherwise, things are more short lived and sporadic, people are doing it in their spare time, and there is no focused effort to continue the good stuff when the money runs out. [Giving Tuesday: Only about 2/3 of the nonprofits in the GiveSI annual fundraiser have gotten any donation at all, so please help the ones remaining now if there’s still time!]

So, most of the southern-most Illinois counties lack sufficient nonprofit services, and especially funding. We also have many people in need, and we need to get good programs supported or off the ground and helping more people so that our people and communities can grow stronger, but first we need money!

This is a chicken-egg problem obviously. Everyone struggles in the end. This is how it is, and how it has always been in southern Illinois according to everyone I’ve ever talked to. Decade after decade, we’re stuck.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, right? SO LET’S TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT! So what is the solution for southern Illinois?

Leveraging our copious natural and human resources, 

we southern Illinoisans must ALL pledge to work together more in an intentional effort

to turn our economy around with business models and lifestyles that are good for the climate, economy and humanity,

individually and through trusted nonprofit organizations,

around a common goal of prosperity and peace for all residents of current and future generations,

for once and for all time,

in all communities in the region.

All citizens and current and future can and should be able to prosper and lead good, meaningful lives. There is plenty to go around. It’s totally possible.

We don’t have to start from scratch. Southern Illinois has many excellent assets like education, agriculture and transportation that can be built upon. We have many potential new industries like renewable energy, distributed manufacturing, electric transportation, and industrial hemp for renewable materials that we can start up. But first we have to build up our foundation, using our internal resources and expertise, so that we can hold our own and compete for bigger and bigger opportunities for the benefit of all the people of our region.

We have to think differently, and open our minds to the good things we have going on right here. Economic development funding should go towards local nonprofits and businesses, and to protecting our natural resources. Community development should include climate resilience and a transition to clean renewable energy, especially in the most vulnerable communities, to ensure a future is even possible. Everyone should have knowledge and ability to get access to these improvements.

Robust and effective nonprofits are key to this effort. We must establish a nonprofit funding and service network in southern Illinois. We must establish an ongoing effort to help grassroots efforts get off the ground, and grow to support the people in need. The same as the larger economy where nonprofits participate, have to fund our local nonprofits internally, get them off the ground, at which point we will have the expertise and resources to expand services and funding opportunities. Once we have funded internally, we can leverage that ongoing funding and increasing expertise to go after bigger and bigger funding opportunities. The time is now, because millions and billions in grants are coming out of governments at the local, state and federal levels, and they are often targeted to coal and low-income communities. There are far too many of each of those in southern Illinois.

Widespread investment in organizations that are improving more people’s quality of life is going to improve everyone’s quality of life! The things that people really need are already limitless, like love, belonging, families, education, energy from the sun, and something to do. More healthy, safe, productive people means more people buying small business products and services, more people to fill better jobs, more money available for local investment. But we have to lay the foundation, and continuously support the structure, and figure out how to make these things available to everyone. That requires money, and money is what most nonprofits need most right now. We just have to decide that that’s what we’re going to do. WE  MUST MAKE THIS INTENTIONAL EFFORT TO TURN AROUND THE NOTORIOUS SOUTHERN ILLINOIS STRUGGLE TO GET AHEAD.

The Southern Illinois Community Foundation’s GiveSI program is a shining example of a worthwhile effort to lessen the southern Illinois struggle. They’re helping to invest precious hard-earned dollars from people in our communities to legitimate, worthwhile nonprofits in our region. Please get on GiveSI’s platform today and donate as much as you can to support hard-working nonprofit organizations in southern Illinois if you can, including All4.Earth’s nonprofit, The Climate Economy Education Inc. Donations today will be partially matched by a “bonus fund” of the GiveSI program.

The nonprofits participating in GiveSI are working to directly service people in need, providing education, healthcare, childcare, and other services that are helping people lead better lives. There are also some organizations, like The Climate Economy Education Inc, developing and funding educational programs and entrepreneurial efforts that are helping people live better, healthier, more productive lives. Every bit of your support matters.

One for all and all for Earth!