Thursday, February 19, 2009

Economy's Effect on Charities

As a fundraiser, the worst three words right now are "with this economy." We're hearing it from all sides, "With this economy, I'm scaling back my charitable contributions." "With this economy, we aren't supporting X or Y causes." "With this economy..."well, you get the point.

Here's the problem--With this economy, charities are facing a double edged sword. Contributions will go down while need for the services provided will go up. Especially for organizations provided immediate needs of services such as food pantries, addressing homelessness, and fighting poverty. More clients will be coming to the doors of charities seeking help. They are going to struggle to meet the rising demand of needs from clients. Many of people coming to organizations for help may not have needed help in years past. However, "with this economy" they are now finding themselves struggling and turning for help.

If you're a frequent visitor to this blog, you know this is a topic I feel strongly about.

People are being laid off. People are losing bonuses or raises. Many are just thankful they have a job at all. It's scary times, I know. Today, I sat with my monthly leader's circle of Executive Director's at various nonprofits discussing what we're seeing. It's happening all over. I'm thankful to be in Dallas where the situation isn't quite as dire. I'm thankful that Heroes for Children is doing well comparably and able to provide for families with children with cancer. This post isn't about how HFC is doing or a plea for donations. This is about the national situation for nonprofit organizations.

What scares me is people cutting out charitable contributions all together. Sure, I cut my housekeeper for the time being and we cut our lawn services. We're not shopping for ourselves and spending frivolously anymore. One thing we're not cutting back? Our charitable contributions. We're thoughtful of where and how we give. We have our set charities (HFC, Princess Alexa Foundation, and LLS) that we will be supporting this year. Our selection is personal to us. We found the ones whose mission best fits our family. We won't be huge contributors this year, but we're not stopping either.

As you think about your upcoming year, I hope you will consider the same. Charities need you now more than ever. Read my post from December (linked above) for ideas of how you can make a difference without breaking your bank account.

My question, dear readers, is how are things in your area? What are you seeing? Are you able to contribute to nonprofits right now? Please leave your thoughts and comments here.


Things Happen in 3's said...

I'm a long time follower and 'lurker' from Vancouver, Canada :) I love your blog and especially admire your spirit. You're an inspiration. Here in Canada, we're feeling the crunch too - we're about 12 months behind the USA with regards to repurcussions but its starting to be felt more strongly. Especially because we are so influenced by the US in product, sales, USDollar, etc. I'm not cutting back on my contributions this year - I'll still be giving my weekly $20 to my Church and my two organizations that I give to - Breast Cancer as well as Parkinson's (both for family, personal reasons as well) will be similar to previous years. I'm also getting my two young children involved in fund raising and social contribution in our neighbourhood shelters and food banks. They're young - 5 and 9 - but its not too young to instill these values.

Good for you for getting this message out there - keep giving!!

God Bless

Shannon (SLBB) said...

Hi jenny,
As someone who relies on servies provided by a not for profit organization, (we receive therapy and support services for my son who has cerebral palsy) we are definately feeling this knee jerk reaction to "this economy". Our therapy aide was laid off and due to increased case loads and layoffs, we had to be re-assigned to a new therapist and cut therapy sessions, this could be the difference in walking or not. it is a shame. We are paying for private therapy and doing with out cable t.v.

Now on the donor side, we had reduced our donations slightly, but we have increased our time in volunteering to try to help our "pet" organizations bridge the gap.

I encourage people to get creative. Throw a garage sale to help clean out you house, help people purchase items they need for less and with the profits make a donation to your favorite charity.

I could go on and on and on!

Great post!

Steph said...

I live only an hour from Detroit in an area that is primarily industrial. Most of the jobs that pay decent around here without a college degree are those that either are the automotive industry or supply the automotive industry. Alot of people around here never went to college because they went directly to work for the auto companies right out of high school. We are sitting at an 11% unemployment rate, there are 5 houses on my block that went into foreclosure in the past year. Even gas stations are closing their doors because buisness is so bad.

As for how the charities are? They have no money! My friends went down to welfare to apply for food stamps since they have both lost their jobs and as a family of 6 they only got $110 per month because there is no money and too many people applying. Many families around here are doubling up in a household. I own my home (barely) and within the next week I will have 2 more families move into my home because none of us can afford to do it alone, we have to help eachother out. We will be crowded, but it's something that must be done.

~~Mel~~ said...

Another Canadian here! We are feeling the crunch as well...but it won't stop me from donating to the charities I support on a yearly basis.

tricia said...

I have my "pet" charities(breast cancer,heart association,and a children's wish organization) and continue to support them. I haven't decreased my contribution.If new ones are introduced to me I consider them but make a nominal contribution(like where a charity gets a neighbor to send out contribution forms).I get SO many calls but I just can't give to all.

Jenny said...

Thanks for all the comments so far. I'm hoping that more people weigh in on this important discussion.

Tricia--I completely agree. It's too hard to give to everyone that asks. You just have to select what is important to you.

Mel & Things Happen in 3's--Interesting to know how things are going in Canada. Of course, I knew the market issue is a global one, but I appreciate learning more about it.

Shannon--Thank you for sharing how this is personally affecting you.

Steph--Wow on what is going on in Detroit. I'm sorry you are having to make the type of sacrifice you are currently doing (sharing your home), but I hope you are able to make it work.

Hoping this discussion keeps up!

Minivan Mom said...

Great post!

Like you, we are also scaling back personally, as we feel more pressure to pay off our debt (of course, part of that is a hopeful impending move to pay for!) I no longer have that sense of "well, I'll pay it when I get around to it". I have a heightened awareness of our financial situation, and want to put our family on more stable ground.

However, my charity contributions have not changed in my budget. I have a monthly amount set aside for charities, partly going towards my church, some of which goes to HFC (as you know), and I *always* have some put aside each month for fundraisers of friends and families. I value not just supporting nonprofits/charities, but supporting the people in my life who are making a difference (like your Team in Training).

Lindsey said...

For us, hitting the savings to continue to donate to charities just isn't logical. We both work in insurance, in the insurance capital of the US, and will be lucky to keep our jobs through the year.

Nikki said...

For me, I have to cut back. I'm sorry, but I do. I never had the luxury of having a housekeeper or lawn service. Once in awhile, my husband and I purchase an expensive item, but day-to-day, we live with the very basics. Some weeks I cut back on groceries. I buy clothes off of the clearance racks.....I don't have expensive shoes, or a Coach purse. I used to give more to charities, but I can't now. I understand your point very well, but you (and maybe others) cut back on things you really can live without..... Did I really need to buy myself a brand new camera, which I did? No.... but it's been so long since I have bought myself anything new. I'm still giving, but like many people, I've had to really cut back. It's a vicious cycle, and I get that, but it's ugly out there. I have followed your blog for quite a long time, and I think what you have done and continue to do for families is incredible. I think, though, if people can't give as much, they can't.

Dollface and Tomato Lady said...

This is an interesting topic!

In some areas, I have cut back. I live in the Northeast where cost of living is fairly expensive. I have never lived beyond my means (massages, expensive clothes, manicures, etc.), but I am worried about what the future holds. I've really tried to keep my donations local. I am keeping up with my weekly donations to my parish, because I feel they are a backbone to the community; however, giving to national organizations, I cannot justify anymore.

I think we are just entering a whole new era of money. Maybe it isn't such a bad thing.


One crazed mommy said...

This is one of those times that I feel guilty, but at the same time defensive. I am one of those people who was faithful about contributing in the past. Unfortunately, our household has been hit HARD. My husband was very successful in 2007, as a new home sales rep. Then 2008 he moved to another company to try a new venture - he hasn't sold the first home since...that was January 2008. He has since been looking for other employment - I still have my job, which is good, but not enough to cover mortgage, 2kids in daycare, plus daily living expenses. At this time our parents have been helping us out so we don't lose the house - that's our main please know my heart wants to contribute so badly, but life just isn't being kind to us right now. :( We've cut back so much and at the time are just trying to keep our heads above water with our current debt. My daughter is in 4K right now, and has 3 months to go until they break for son is one year behind her. Where he is not in a "curriculum based class" yet, my husband is keeping him at home to save money while he is on the hunt for a new job, and if he still doesn't have one by summer will be keeping my daughter as well. this case, the economy stinks here. LOL! I'm trying to stay positive, as I know it's just a phase...but it gets really, really hard sometimes! Since I can't send out a check, I still try to do the small things - donate a dollar here, or support fund-raisers that are affordable. I know this is rambly, but it's hard for those of us who were comfortable contributing in the past and just don't have the means to do it anymore. I am glad to hear HFC is still going strong during the economy...once things turn around, you can expect us to start contributing to charities again - LTN was my biggie every year in honor of sweet Allie!

Mary Beth said...

I'm in Southeast Michigan and the economy is really scary. Job losses left and right.

I've followed your story from the beginning and have been inspired to support LLS through Light the Night and Team in Training.

I chose this year to walk in my first Breast Cancer 3-Day walk and getting donations is slow. We're brainstorming fundraising events, but it's tough! Everyone is hit hard by the economy.

KG said...

Here's a link that talks about ways to still be charitable in other ways when your dollars will only go so far: