VOL. 122 | NO. 155 | Friday, August 17, 2007
Nonprofit Executives Aren't Too Worried Over Possible Recession - Yet
By Rosalind Guy
Analysts and economists nationwide have been speculating about an impending recession. And as the threat of a downturn continues to loom, different business sectors are projecting how this bleak scenario might affect them.
Whatever happens, the reverberations are sure to be felt far and wide, even - and some might say especially - in the nonprofit community.
However, it's clear that sector is not yet ready to reveal how a slowing economy is affecting fundraising dollars.
Nancy McGee, executive director of the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence (ANE), said none of the local nonprofit directors she knows are worried about what a recession might do to their budgets or services.
"I think we're still too early in this to tell anything," she said. "Though it will be interesting to see where we stand in say six months to a year."
Well's not dry yet
Although McGee said it's too early to speculate about a downturn, she did point to the last organized study of nonprofit agencies as a possible giving gauge.
The 105-page report titled "Giving Memphis 2003" is the result of a study called "Report on Philanthropy in the Memphis Region for 2002," which was conducted by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel in Indianapolis.
In 2002, Memphis-area households, estates, corporations and foundations gave $1.39 billion to nonprofit agencies in the United States and about 79 percent of that went to nonprofits in the Memphis area, the report states.
Gifts to religious organizations represented the largest share of contributions. What's more, Memphis giving pushes beyond the national trend with both an increased percentage of the population donating and with a higher annual gift amount.
About 60 percent of Memphis-area households donated to religious organizations in 2002, with an average annual contribution of $2,222. Nationwide, 45.9 percent of households donated an average of $1,638 to religious organizations.
A matter of priorities
Calvary Episcopal Church, which awards grants to local nonprofit organizations, hasn't spent much time speculating about a possible recession, said church communications specialist Laura Trott.
"I think (people's) hearts are going to remain with their churches and they'll continue to give ..." Trott said. "I think what they'll do is they'll give to their church and they won't buy that bigger TV this year."
Calvary Episcopal's outreach ministries are funded by member pledges. The church also gives grants to local nonprofit organizations such as the Church Health Center, BRIDGES Inc. and Hope House. This year, the church awarded more than $103,000 in grants, according to its Web site.
United Way of the Mid-South's fundraising professionals also have not speculated much about what's taking place in the national economy and how it could affect fundraising, said Dave Skorupa, vice president of communications.
"We do talk about the economy and things like that but, so far, that has not played a major role in our discussions here at United Way," Skorupa said. "There's still a few weeks left, there's still a few meetings left; I don't know what's going to happen moving forward but the meetings that I've sat in it hasn't been a major focus of our conversations."
Undaunted, they say
United Way is in the process of planning for this year's fundraising campaign. The official kickoff is scheduled to take place Sept. 7.
Skorupa remained positive about the financial outlook for the organization, pointing to the figures from its most recent campaign.
Earlier this year, United Way announced it had raised more than $26 million between Sept. 2006 and March 2007.
The United Way's fundraising campaign that ran from early September 2005 to around March 2006 - just weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast - netted the organization more than $25 million.
"We're still convinced that even during really, really challenging times like when Hurricane Katrina caused all that devastation along the Gulf Coast ... we knew that a lot of people would be giving in another direction in order to help folks out, but that didn't cause us to lower our goals and we still were able to have a very successful campaign that surpassed the goal," Skorupa said.