Fewer holiday gifts for charities
Sister Nancy Chiarello, right, and others prepare Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen of The Dwelling Place, a transitional shelter for women in Hells Kitchen. The shelter relies solely on private donations. (Photo by Jefferson Siegel)
By Lana Bortolot
Special to amNewYork
No longer counting on the largess of corporate donors, the citys nonprofit groups are preparing for the inevitable: a season of nongiving.
None of us has an idea how this is going to effect us, but for sure, no one is going to be giving the way theyve been used to giving, says David Eng, vice president of public affairs at The Tenement Museum.
Each plunge in the roller-coaster Dow means a little more teeth-gritting: Nonprofits in good health are scrutinizing budgets or halting expansion plans, while struggling nonprofits wonder how they will keep the doors open.One organization, the New York Rescue Mission, is down 11 percent in revenue, and held a radio-thon at its recent Thanksgiving banquet to raise $12,000.
Its pretty clear that smaller groups will have to either reduce services or [their employees] will volunteer for a while because they have a lot of heart, says Fran Barrett, executive director of the Community Resource Center, a management consultancy for nonprofits. But there will be a lot of slowing down or shutting down.
High 5 Tickets to the Arts, which provides $5 tickets to the arts for teens, is among the groups dealing with the slowdown. Fewer organizations are purchasing group tickets, and with significant losses in corporate funding, general manager, Chris Kam says: Were struggling with trying to switch over to a larger number of smaller, individual donors.
The downturn also has delivered a triple slam to direct-services organizations: funding has declined, while the price of commodities and the need for services has increased.
Kristin Reiersen, who works at two food pantries through the AmeriCorps program, says overall food costs have gone up 11 percent from last year and some staples peanut butter, pasta and garbanzo beans increased 70 percent.
We used to be able to give families salmon, tuna, and chicken or beef. Now were able to give them only tuna, says Reiersen, who works at the community food pantry at Saint Bartholomews Church. The situation there was dire enough that the church launched a food drive to restock its shelves.
The challenging times require creative thinking, says Sister Nancy Chiarello, founder of The Dwelling Place, a transitional shelter for women. She has arranged for residents to speak at parishes in return for special collections on behalf of the shelter.
The Dwelling Place relies 100 percent on private donations, says Chiarello, When you depend on the generosity of people, its not a guaranteed income.
Lorie A. Slutsky, president of New York Community Trust, which distributes money to some 2,500 nonprofits, says the quickness of the downturn has left people anxious and stunned and that affects donor psychology.
Americans are and feel less wealthy, and that will influence the attitude of people who will give. However, she added, I have always been impressed with the enormous generosity of New Yorkers.
And these are the times when nonprofits need that generosity the most, says Eric Muscatell, development director at The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). We all need folks to stay the course and stay with us even if theyre giving less.
HOW THEYRE COPING
New Yorks well-known organizations are taking steps to prepare for tough times ahead.
- The Tenement Museum has scaled back on renovations to a new visitors center and expanded gift shop.
- WNYC has developed a contingency budget, delaying some staffing needs and discretionary spending, and is holding off on program expansion.
- amfAR has put a freeze on hiring and program expansions.
- New York Cares has trimmed budgets, and will refocus efforts away from expansion and more toward direct client services such as the volunteer income tax program.