Signs of Economic Recovery

Survey says charitable giving
may be ready to rebound

Local organizations say
they found 2010 challenging

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(January 2011) – After several tough years, there are indications that strapped-for-cash non-profit organizations may find fundraising a little easier in the days ahead.
A national survey of 2,356 public charities and 163 private foundations concluded that charitable giving may be on the increase following the end of the recession.
The GuideStar 2010 survey found:

Wayne Kyle


• The proportion of participants reporting decreased contributions dropped 14 percent, from 51 percent in October 2009 to 37 percent in October 2010.
• The percentage who said contributions had increased grew 13 percent, from 23 percent in October 2009 to36 percent in October 2010.
“These figures may herald the beginning of an economic recovery in the non-profit sector, although only time will tell if the trend will continued,” concluded GuideStar, an organization that gathers and publicizes information about non-profits.
Madison, Ind.-based fundraising consultant Wayne Kyle of Woodburn Kyle & Co. sees that trend in his work with hospitals, museums and libraries who are clients of his firm. “People are gaining confidence again. It’s coming back – but slowly,” said Kyle.
“People on boards are afraid to start fundraising because they are not sure how fundraising will be received. If they’re unsure of the reception, they’re less likely to initiate a fundraising effort. That’s why these statistics are so important, to say that we are turning the corner,” Kyle said.
Local non-profits could use some good news about fund-raising after several lean years.
2010 has been the most challenging of the three years she has worked for United Way of Jefferson County, said Sheila Coffin She was recently named interim director after the resignation of executive director Stacy Turner.
“It’s been a lot rougher, actually,” said Sheila Coffin, comparing 2010 fundraising to prior years. “Our goal was higher – $325,000, compared to $300,000 last year. We’re at 92 percent,” she said in mid-December. United Way of Jefferson County supports 12 agencies.
The economy has had a huge effect on United Way’s fundraising, she said. Since much of its revenue comes through voluntary payroll deductions, United Way also feels the impact when employees’ health insurance premiums go up. Employees shrink their giving in order to maintain their take-home pay.
Meanwhile, the need for services for various United Way agencies has increased as households experience money problems.
Fortunately, the United Way has a matching grant to help fill its coffers, Coffin said. Lilly Endowment has promised to match 2010 or 2011 gifts that represent an increase in giving over 2009 levels, up to a cap of $18,000.
The Lide White Boys & Girls Club in Madison is one of the 12 United Way agencies, but it also conducts its own fundraising effort.
Ray Black Jr., executive vice president of the Boys & Girls Club, said, “It’s been difficult with the recession and the economy the way it is. We’ve definitely had to work longer and harder to get the grants we did get. They’re more competitive.”
The Boys & Girls Club got through this difficult year, Black says, because of a $42,500 federal stimulus grant. It enabled him to keep four part-time employees on the staff to supervise members.
“It was a critical component of our financial survival this year,” said Black. That type of grant is not available for the year that started Nov. 1, so gifts from individual donors will be increasingly important.
During 2009 and 2010, the Boys & Girls Club targeted more individual donors in an annual campaign called “It Just Takes One.” “Madison and Jefferson County as a whole is a very generous and giving community,” Black said.
He has seen an increase in families asking for assistance or scholarships to pay their Boys & Girls Club dues. The club policy is to turn no one away. A state of Indiana program called “Mitch’s Kids” helps in this effort. Students in grades 1-8 who agree to do homework at the club for 20 to 30 minutes each day will receive free membership for up to 12 weeks.
Black says in his experience, not-for-profits have financial difficulties for two years before an economic downturn, and for another two years after the economic picks back up. “I’m really expecting another year where we’ll have to rise and meet the challenges,” said Black.
Susan Stahl, executive director of Girls Inc. of Jefferson County (Ind.), had a similar assessment. “The last couple of years have been challenging and I don’t think we’re out of it yet.” She noted that it’s always challenging finding money for operating expenses. “It’s important to invest in the people who work with our girls. That’s where our priorities are – in our programming. We need people to supervise our girls.”
Girls Inc. is currently conducting a capital campaign to raise money for buildings and endowment. That kind of giving may attract different donors than those who give for annual campaigns, Stahl said. Both operating funds and capital funds are important to the organization.
“People have been incredibly generous and have responded to the needs of organizations like us, where the girls’ needs and the families’ needs have gone up,” said Stahl.
As for 2011, “We’re always optimistic, but we will be working very hard to stay connected to our donors. We’ll be looking for new donors who believe in our mission.”
Kyle, the fund-raising consultant, tells his clients that successful campaigns can be accomplished even in a tight economy.
“Organizations that have done well with communicating with their donors will do well with their campaigns,” said Kyle. “People have been giving to organizations with a solid history of giving, strong cases of need and a well planned fund-raising effort.”

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