by Esteban Parra
Delaware’s nonprofit sector continues to limp its way out of the recession, leaving some unable to hire more people, find money to fix buildings and keep up with demand for services that continue to increase.
Even popular organizations, such as PAWS for People, which provides therapeutic pet visits to people in the community, has felt the pinch of vanishing dollars.
“We have been very fortunate because our mission and our pet therapy is very well received … and it is something that people want to support,” said Rosemarie LeNoir, PAWS for People’s development director. Yet the Delaware-based organization, which is headquartered at its founder’s Cecil County, Maryland, home, is struggling to keep up with requests for more pet therapy visits and additional training of therapy pets, which comes at a cost of about $500.
“As with in any nonprofit, it is always a challenge to raise funds,” LeNoir said.
That’s why LeNoir and others are looking forward to participating in Thursday’s one-day United Way of Delaware campaign hoping to raise money for more than 200 nonprofit agencies in the state. The online campaign, called Do More 24, not only wants to find new streams of revenue for nonprofits, but it wants to highlight what these organizations do for the community.
For 24 hours, United Way of Delaware and participating nonprofits are asking donors to get involved, to give to and get to know charitable organizations. There are prizes for those who give, including a car.
Through the campaign, United Way of Delaware officials hope to reach donors who used to give through their jobs.
“Nonprofits definitely, including ourselves, have to really think through how we strategically raise dollars today versus before,” said Ty Jones, chief impact officer for United Way of Delaware.
Delaware’s nonprofits are in need of more funding as individual donations have dropped by about 24 percent, from $611.4 million in 2006 to $466.9 million in 2013, the most recent numbers available, according to a report developed by KBT & Associates for the Jessie Ball du Pont Fund.
The numbers are more dramatic if you remove hospitals and universities, said Sheila Bravo, president and CEO of Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement, a member-based group that helps Delaware nonprofits through advocacy, training, capacity building and research.
“And it’s a greater decrease when you look at people with a higher wealth,” Bravo said. High-wealth donors, those with a household income of $200,000 or more, were most hit by the recession, thus their giving declined the most at 39 percent, she said.
Two assumptions for this group giving less are that their portfolios haven’t bounced back yet and the other is that these people are retiring and moving into a fixed-income situations.
Adding to nonprofits shrinking revenue is government funding that has seen a growth rate of about .9 percent at a time when nonprofits’ services has increased. Government, which outsources a lot of programs to nonprofits, funds about a third of nonprofits nationally, Bravo said.
“There was a little federal bump, because the federal [government] did do some stimulus money – that’s starting to go away,” she said. “One of the things we are watching is with the current budget negotiations.
We’re concerned that the funding that is there could be at risk.”
That’s why efforts, such as the United Way’s Do More 24 campaign, are important, Bravo said. It’s not only to raise money on that day, but to highlight what these nonprofits do.
“The population growth here in Delaware should be an opportunity for nonprofits to be able to reach out and remind folks of all the good works that they do,” she said. “And there is more people now in the state than there were in 2006.
“And maybe some of those people aren’t aware of what nonprofits are here because they moved from other places.”
Jones said the United Way’s “hope and prayer” is that at the very least the Do More 24 campaign provides them a benchmark as they move forward.
“This is the first time that we are doing it so it just offers great opportunity for us to look at the lessons learned and ways in which we can do it better next year,” Jones said.
While this is United Way of Delaware’s inaugural year for the program, online campaigning has been an ongoing event the Washington, D.C., area, where it began four years ago. That campaign raised about $1.5 million in one day last year, Jones said.
The campaign is similar to the popular Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday) online campaign that encourages people worldwide to give at the start of the Christmas holiday season. But because Do More 24 is more focused to the region, people feel that by contributing they are coming together to make the community better, said Kelly V. Brinkley chief operating officer at the United Way of the National Capital Area.
“That’s why it works,” Brinkley said.
While United Way still uses it more traditional campaigns, Brinkley said they need to seek new forms of revenue where young people look.
“If we want to teach young people a culture of philanthropy, then we have to meet them where they are,” she said. “If people are online, then we have to get them online.”
While the organization’s initial goal was to increase what millennials give to nonprofits, Brinkley said they realized that their ideal donor was a 35- to 50-year-old woman. “That’s who really liked it the most,” she said.
Brinkley, who hopes to eventually blanket Mid-Atlantic states with the campaign, said participating organizations should make the day fun.
“They have to get excited about helping the community on that day,” she said. “Hopefully igniting something into the future where their donors will get involved.”
Organizers said much of the campaign’s success will have to do with how well local nonprofits grasp the idea and where they take it with the community and beyond.
Several nonprofits have been promoting the day with posters, wearing shirts advertising the day and even on social media, such as Wilmington’s Kingswood Community Center, which has been struggling to find money to not only run its programs, but to pay bills and replace their leaking roof.
Logan Herring, Kingswood’s executive director, said he hopes the campaign can help display the many things the community center does and in turn energize people to donate.
“We’d like for people to see our cause, follow our Facebook page and see the things we’ve done just in the last couple of months,” he said. “And not only like it, but reach into their pockets and scan their credit card.
“A couple of dollars here and there can add up and make all the difference in the world for this community center and the community that it serves.”
Contact Esteban Parra at (302) 324-2299, [email protected] or Twitter @eparra3.