|Economic downturn leaves nonprofits scratching for cash|
|October 23, 2012 11:00 pm|
Nationwide, many businesses and individuals still feel the effects of the economic downturn – whether it be fewer sales, difficulty paying bills or unemployment. But they aren’t alone – many nonprofits are in a similar situation.
In Curry County, a variety of nonprofits are struggling to make ends meet and to continue offering their services.
Wild Rivers Community Foundation, which strives to improve the quality of life of Del Norte and Curry County residents, has seen an increase in need in the past few years, according to Mary Foote, the former foundation program officer.
“There’s more need right now than there’s ever been before, and there’s less to go around,” Foote said. “In a way, the government does not provide basic support for communities. Departments are spinning off into nonprofits. In general there are less and less government services.
“I think your nonprofit organizations, community foundations are going to have to take the bull by the horns and take over those services and provide more organizations in the community.”
However, as the recession continues, volunteer positions become harder to fill, Foote said.
She suggests that nonprofits pool their resources.
“That’s the only way to be strong enough to survive economic times like this,” she said. “Cities in Curry County have lots of similar issues.”
Nonprofits such as the South Coast Humane Society and Chetco Activity Center have all been forced to adapt.
Chetco Activity Center
The Chetco Activity Center, is feeling the strain of the recession.
“Our funding is easily down 30 percent from former years,” Community Relations Director Janice Scanlon said. “People in this community built this place, and now we’re running a deficit of $2 to 3,000 a month. The giving for this place, the donations are way down. If we go to apply for grants, they’re few and far between.
“If people do have money, they’re stocking it away,” Scanlon said. “They’re less likely to give. They’re fearful of their own futures.”
As a result, Scanlon has resorted to other means. She is doing everything from renting the center out to charging people for seconds during lunch to speaking at functions to becoming a marketer.
“Just about anything that crosses my path, I will examine it for a fit for the center,” she said.
The center also has had to dip into its reserves – which it previously never had to do, cut back on staff, depend more on volunteers, and not advertise as much.
“We’re literally paring back on every expense,” Scanlon said. “Everything from the light bulbs we put in to what kind of phone do we choose. Everything that can be done by a volunteer is being done by a volunteer rather than staff.”
Scanlon, along with a handful of other local nonprofits, has started Wild Rivers Connect for Del Norte and Curry County nonprofits to create a database of current contact information and to work on pooling resources.
Outreach Gospel Mission
The Outreach Gospel Mission, a free, recovery ministry, is struggling to meet the needs of the community.
“We’re definitely not profiting,” Executive Director Michael Olsen said.
The cash donations are down about 18 percent, yet demand has increased. Compared to last year, the mission has assisted nearly 40 percent more families with utilities, fuel, rent or housing.
Now families come in three times a week asking for assistance; it used to be half that.
“As the demand increases and the donation doesn’t increase with demand we are looking at every area we can to make it work,” Olsen said.
To deal with the demand, Olsen does his best to have low overhead; his current operating cost, including salary, is 13 percent of the mission’s total budget.
However, now when a person comes in and asks for help with their electric bill, Olsen has to say “no.” If someone needs rent or gas assistance, the mission takes a second or third look at the request.
“The good news is, we’re still able to get donations for hard goods that we’re able to turn around and sell,” Olsen said. “It keeps operations going.”
The mission also is still able to provide an in-house recovery program. The population has been cut, but the mission has added a women’s home.
“We’re really doing the best we can with what we have, and we are very grateful to the donors we have.”
Brookings-Harbor Community Helpers
In the past year, the Brookings-Harbor Community Helpers Food Bank has noticed a significant increase in the number of people in need of food.
Between 2010 and 2011, the food bank gave out 1,164 more boxes of food and served 2,074 more people in 2011 than in 2010, executive director Julie Davis said. And 2012 will likely exceed the 2011 level.
In addition to more need, the cost of food has increased as well. For example, through a food share program, Davis used to be able purchase a jar of peanut butter for $1.50. That same jar of peanut butter now costs $2.30.
As if these two factors aren’t enough, there is more: Donations are down slightly compared to last year.
“It puts a strain on us,” Davis said. “A heavier strain on making sure we have the food. Enough food for people.”
Volunteers haven’t had to turn people away yet, but the food bank isn’t able to give people quite as much food.
Friends of Music
Friends of Music, a group dedicated to bringing top-notch classical musicians to Brookings, has noticed a decline in ticket sales for its concerts and therefore a decline in revenue.
“It certainly has affected us,” Friends of Music president Tom Broderick said. “The recession is so long-lasting. We’ve seen our season tickets go down from maybe 170 to 118, and we’ve often seen our audience is perhaps 50 percent to 60 percent capacity.
“We hope for more, but it’s been tough. And it hurts your cash flow, too. We had a little built up able carry forward for a number of years, but the last number of years it’s been a negative for each year. I’m longing for the days when we can make 4 percent or 5 percent on our money again.”
One of the nonprofit’s biggest struggles is that it isn’t able to earn money on its endowment.
“If you could earn some money on savings or an endowment it would be a whole different story,” Broderick said. “You can make money if you’re willing to gamble, but you can’t do that with our kind of funding. We want to preserve our principle and well-preserve our endowments. We’ll get out of this recession eventually, and get back to normal, I hope.”
As a result, Friends of Music has modified its programs.
“We bring in world-class musicians to the community, but not as many as we’d like,” Broderick said.
Half of the musicians the nonprofit brings in each season are world-class. The remaining are first-class educators who are performers as well.
Brookings-Harbor Education Foundation
The Brookings-Harbor Education Association, a group dedicated to supporting educational endeavors in Brookings-Harbor, has noticed a decline in funding.
“Over the past couple of years, … there’s been some challenges in some of our funding,” BHEA president Alisa Green said. “Turnout is a little lower than anticipated. We’re very thankful for the support that we do get, though.”
However, the association mainly focuses on obtaining grant monies to create more opportunities for this area, so it hasn’t been drastically affected, Green said.
When asked if the association may have to resort to other means of funding, Green said the nonprofit will stick to applying for grants.
South Coast Humane Society
The South Coast Humane Society has seen the effects a recession can have first hand.
“It’s been horrible,” director Tanya Collins said. “This year is worse than last. People come to drop off their animals because of not having food to feed them, of not having a job. People who have had their animals for over 10 years and are trying to bring them into the shelter because they can’t afford them any more. It’s really sad. It’s scary.”
This influx of pets strains the shelter.
“It’s taken a lot money-wise to try to take in as much as we can,” Collins said. “You can tell it’s definitely bad.”
Eventually, the shelter has to turn people away.
“It’s really hard because you just told five people before them that you could, but you’re full now, so what do you do?” Collins said.
Like other groups, the Humane Society has thought of new fundraising ideas.
Last year, for the first time, the shelter started hosting a car wash.
“We’re always trying to figure out a new fundraiser,” Collins said. “I think everybody’s hurting right now. We are pulling our strings and doing everything we can.”
Who tends to donate
According to “How America Gives,” an August study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, those who tend to give aren’t who one might think. Statistically speaking, the most affluent aren’t high on the list.
Rather, “people who make $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more,” according the study.
People in red states are also more likely to donate to charities than those in blue.
“The reasons for the discrepancies are rooted in part in each area’s political philosophy about the role of government versus charity: At least 13 states now offer special tax benefits to charity donors, often in the hopes of stimulating giving at the same time that lawmakers are adopting big cuts in government services,” according to the study.
Tax incentives and religion also matter.
“I would say it deals with religion, wealth of the community ... and government controls that are in place,” Foote said. “That’s going to impact how much charitable giving you can do.”