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Nonprofits scramble for donations

By Nancy H. McLaughlin, News and Record, Greensboro, N.C

December 14, 2009

Dec. 14—So many nonprofit organizations have put out pleas for help that anyone with an extra few dollars might be hard-pressed to choose among them.

The United Way of Greater High Point, for example, might have to cut grants to partner agencies by up to 10 percent — meaning at least one agency might not be able to take clients to out-of-town medical appointments.

With a deadline looming today, the Salvation Army chapters of the Piedmont have hundreds of senior citizens and children who might not receive clothing and essentials through the nonprofit’s Angel Tree adoption program.

Joseph’s House, one of a handful of residential programs working with homeless youth, is every day trying to keep the doors open.

“In this community we nonprofits are competing for the same dollars, but some are older and more established and have a track record and it’s easier for them to raise funds,” said Nancy McLean, president of the nonprofit (www.josephshouse.net) with room for nine young men at a time. The program also operates a drop-in resource center, where other young men who do not live there can come and eat or take a shower. McLean doesn’t begrudge nonprofits that have successfully raised their budgets.

“We have been here less than five years and we have had some excellent outcomes, but everybody doesn’t know who we are,” she said.

Every day someone is in crisis mode.

All of them are finding foundations with fewer dollars for grants, local and state governments with less revenue to support services and community-minded businesses with less to cover the gaps, said Trisha Lester, vice president of the N.C. Center for Nonprofits (www.ncnonprofits.org).

“The most important thing is that you give to causes you have a passion about,” Lester said. “It’s a hard time but I’m optimistic — what people can’t think is that someone else will take care of it. This is a time when people have to dig deep into their pockets and understand that if they want the work of nonprofits to continue they have to support them.”

McLean, for one, is taking her appeal to houses of worships of all faiths, asking them to take up a special “love” offering the Sunday or weekend before Christmas to keep her program going.

“Every time I pray, ‘God what are we going to do?’ I hear him say go to my people, and his people is the church. We get calls from pastors, lay people in churches, who make referrals to Joseph’s House, and my thought was if the churches would take up a love offering for Joseph’s House, if each person gave just one dollar, that would make a big difference in us meeting our expenses.”

With record numbers of people seeking their help, from basic groceries to help keeping their homes warm, expect others to make such drastic appeals, Lester said.

“One of the things we suggest is that they consider giving both to direct service organizations that are really on the front line providing services people need, as well as to causes or organizations that direct efforts at the root cause of the problem,” Lester said. “If someone is concerned about affordable housing, then maybe consider Habitat for Humanity, but also a housing organization trying to change public policy to make housing more affordable.”

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 373-7049 or nancy.mclaughlin@news-record.com

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