Colorado Springs Charities Rely On End-Of-Year Donations, Seek Ways To Move Beyond Pandemic Crisis | Subscriber content


With rising consumer costs, the persistence of labor shortages, and the continuation of COVID-19, will people repeat the record charitable giving of last year, as the second year? of the pandemic coming to an end?

Or will they hang on to their money?

“Anyone can really guess how things are going to go for the coming season, but the indicators are good that this year will be strong,” said Erin Hannan, vice president of communications for the El Pomar Foundation, a granting body. privately founded in Colorado. Springs in 1937.

Along with the holidays, attention in the last six weeks of the year has traditionally turned to philanthropic giving, as people are likely to be more generous, leading nonprofits to contribute the most. gifts of the year.

A significant 87% of the 630 donors who responded to a July survey by researcher Campbell Rinker planned to continue giving this year, an increase from the 78% who said so in September 2020, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

However, more than half of those polled – 59% – said they plan to share their money “more sparingly or cautiously” than before. And 17% said they would give less this year.

In the absence of a crystal ball, financial markets could be affected by inflation and rising costs of consumer goods, Hannan said, which “could play a role in this year-end donations.” .

Even with federal, state and local pandemic relief funds, nonprofits say demand for services is on the rise and they need the public’s help.

Individual contributions make up the bulk of philanthropic giving, said Matt Carpenter, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the El Pomar Foundation.

About 70% of charitable contributions made nationwide come from individuals, he said, with funds from foundations, businesses and bequests representing “a small slice of the pie.”

Nonprofits depend on donation days

Americans gave a record $ 471 billion to nonprofits last year, despite the pandemic, according to Giving USA.

With this in mind, important annual appeals will take place in the coming weeks.

Giving Tuesday, held this year on November 30, raised $ 2.5 billion in the United States alone last year over a 24-hour period.

Colorado’s statewide Gives Day, slated for Dec. 7, grossed over $ 50 million last year in one day.

More than 3,000 nonprofits are participating in the statewide fundraiser this year, including Safe Passage, a Colorado Springs organization that helps child victims of sexual or physical abuse and their caregivers. natural during criminal investigations.

The organization raised $ 20,000 from last year’s campaign, which funded victim services and operating expenses, said executive director Maureen “Mo” Basenberg.

In October, Safe Passage opened the state’s first child advocacy center with police detectives, forensic nurses, psychotherapists, social workers and empowerment teachers helping abused children in a building. on the west side of Colorado Springs.

Safe Passage has the same goal this year as last year for Colorado Gives Day, Basenberg said, and with the new, bigger location, he’s relying on people to respond.

To meet the growing needs of the program with the new facility, Safe Passage’s overall budget has increased from $ 300,000 to $ 1.2 million, she said.

“We are looking at the children who are the most vulnerable,” she said. “They haven’t done anything wrong. It is pure victimization. They are completely dependent on us as responsible adults in society to make sure they are safe and healthy, and we need to make sure that the resources are there to support these children who must try to recover from them. something that was done to them.

The organization is also running a fundraising campaign to fund the new advocacy center. Of the project cost of $ 2.7 million, 70% has been raised, Basenberg said.

“I think people are still a little cautious,” she said. “Everyone is still a little uncertain.

Succumb to the pandemic

Not all nonprofits have been successful in overcoming the pandemic.

Financial pressures exacerbated by COVID-19 contributed to these losses in Colorado Springs:

• Ecumenical social ministries, aged 36, suspended the operations of a wide range of emergency services for the homeless and destitute in March 2020 and closed permanently in May 2020.

• REACH Pikes Peak, a non-profit organization that has served low-income families for nearly 56 years with employment, education and emergency assistance services, closed in October 2020.

• TwoCor, a 16-year-old organization that helped traumatized teens improve their lives and become productive citizens, closed in January.

• Ascending to Health, the city’s only respite center for homeless recovering from a hospital stay, suspended services in July.

• Last week, Interfaith Hospitality Network announced it would close its Day House after nearly 20 years in business, where homeless families can rest, look for work, bathe, do laundry, finish their homework. and receive other services on the path to independence.

Executives of other nonprofits say the disappearance is unfortunate.

“We are of course sorry for any loss of services, especially for families and children,” said R. Lee Patke, Jr., executive director of Greccio Housing, which provides affordable housing to individuals and families with low returned.

A new “State of Nonprofits in the Pikes Peak Region” report, which the Pikes Peak Community Foundation produced over the summer in collaboration with other community programs, shows that the pandemic is still disrupting the business operations of charitable organizations. non-profit.

A total of 432 local organizations were asked to participate and almost half did so.

The responses echoed what for-profit organizations face, said Mina Liebert, director of community impact for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which seeks to make an impact on the region through philanthropy. .

“The number of volunteers is mainly the biggest problem for many nonprofits,” she said, “which is related to the fact that many companies are not able to find enough workers” .

Half of respondents saw an increased need for volunteer hours, according to the survey, and 87% of respondents identified volunteers as the highest need in the fall, winter and spring.

Financial aid for operations and aid for marking complete the first three expected needs.

Sixty-three percent said they plan to expand their services and 38% plan to hire in the coming months. About half received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Among the anonymous comments received in the survey: “We are trying to think creatively about how to re-engage our volunteers”, “Funding remains unpredictable”, “We had to move to virtual telehealth, which exposed the digital divide known to our very low-income customers ”and“ Put simply, this has been an overwhelming year for us – and we plan to find ways to bounce back over time. “

Adding the necessary expertise

While many nonprofits have been able to adapt to the changes brought about by COVID, moving forward sustainably in the future is now a priority and concern, Liebert said.

A new program launched last year by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Resiliency Through Innovation, teaches nonprofit leaders how their organizations can be strong but flexible, she said.

Twenty-one local nonprofit organizations work with CPAs and BKD advisors to review finances, operations, leadership, governance and stakeholder contribution.

The main issues, said Steve Sauer, director at BKD, include improving financial policies and procedures, integrating governance, job descriptions and training, fundraising strategies and planning for the business. communication.

The best way to deal with current challenges, which typically include staff and volunteer shortages, changes in fundraising from in-person considerations to virtual or hybrid and economic considerations, is to “be creative, have courage. and the right team of staff, board members and consultants. ,” he said.

“Throughout this process, one thing is clear: the participating nonprofits care deeply about their work, their constituents and their stakeholders, and embody a culture of excellence and improvement,” said Sauer said. “Self-reflection and evaluation are powerful tools. “

Participants say the program, which is free for organizations, has been invaluable.

Kidpower of Colorado, which teaches child safety and protection skills, was under “tremendous stress” at a time when children and families needed its services most, said Jan Isaacs Henry, executive director and co-founder.

“The Resilience Through Innovation initiative helps our organization to delve into what is most important to our work and how to ensure that we can continue to face unpredictable events,” she said.

The organization establishes a five-year plan and works to align financial goals with objectives.

“While nonprofits always welcome financial assistance, this program offered technical assistance to partners with areas of expertise that we did not have,” said Henry.

The Resiliency Through Innovation program provides Kids on Bikes with a deeper level of understanding on how to improve their work in winning a bike programs, cycling opportunities and cycling education, said the executive director Daniel Byrd.

“It was like taking a physical exam and realizing that there are a lot of things you can do to improve your own health and well-being, to better help others,” he said.

“It has given us areas of weakness and strength, mirrors to reflect how we can become stronger, so we are much more effective in accomplishing our mission,” he said.


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