[Hpn] Nonprofits are fighting for life in wake of 9/11

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 13 Nov 2001 08:41:31 -0800

Atlanta Business Chronicle - November 12, 2001

Exclusive Reports
>From the November 9, 2001 print edition

Nonprofits are fighting for life
Wendy Bowman-Littler   Staff Writer

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity
received a letter from a couple stating they wouldn't be making their annual
$1,000 contribution because they had instead given the money to relief

Such shifting of funds is hurting nonprofit organizations across metro

Nonprofits ranging from agencies serving the homeless and hungry to arts
groups such as museums and theaters are bracing for tough economic times.
The usually brisk holiday giving season is expected to suffer considerably,
with the anthrax scare likely to dampen direct-mail solicitations.

Atlanta Business Chronicle surveyed 59 metro area nonprofits, 41 of which --
or 70 percent -- said giving related to the Sept. 11 attacks coupled with
the depressed economy will impact their fund-raising efforts through late
2001 and well into 2002. Other areas such as programs, in-kind gifts and
volunteerism also are expected to suffer.

Needs already going unmet before Sept. 11 due to the economy still are not
being met and getting worse, particularly in the area of support for the
arts, one survey respondent added.

"We absolutely must make adjustments which take into account the current
fund-raising environment," said Kim Patrick Bitz, executive director of the
Atlanta Coalition of Performing Arts, an alliance of 100 performing arts

"Of course, that won't be easy, considering Atlanta already ranked near the
bottom in support for the arts prior to Sept. 11," said Bitz, referring to a
Research Atlanta report, "The Arts Economy in 20 Cities: Where Does Atlanta
Stand?," which placed the city 17th in philanthropic support.

"Unless funding from all sources begins to flow again, the consequences
could be devastating," Bitz said.

At the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, which already was having a difficult
time staying afloat, October membership renewals were down by 20 percent,
said Director Aaron Berger, attributing the decrease to patrons contributing
to Sept. 11 funds. 

"The museum does not have an endowment to aid in funding general operating
expenses. Therefore, our expenses are paid by membership and exhibition
sponsors," Berger said. "Further, we are rebounding from the previous year
of financial trouble and adding new programming to encourage new revenues.
Those revenues may not be there."

SciTrek, Atlanta's science and technology museum, which was in danger of
closing earlier this year because of financial problems, is reducing
expenses due to a drop in donations and admissions revenue since Sept. 11
and reviewing its 2002 fund-raising strategy, according to President and CEO
Lewis Massey. 

`Survival mode' 

Theatrical Outfit's subscription sales and contributed income slowed before
Sept. 11 because of the stalling economy, said Beth Haynes, director of
marketing and development for the theater, which stages plays at Georgia
State University's Rialto Center for the Performing Arts.

"Corporate doors were closing, and individuals were cutting back
dramatically," Haynes said. "I think this was going to be a tough year even
without the events of the 11th, but it's definitely going to be even more
difficult now." 

"I think to say that we have shifted into `survival mode' is not an
overstatement," said Haynes, adding that substantial cuts to the theater's
"already strapped" budget limits marketing and outreach activities, as well
as staffing. 

"We hope people understand that unless substantial contributions are made
now, there are likely to be far fewer theaters, dance companies and musical
ensembles next year than are performing today," she added.

Even the Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center, which oversees the Alliance Theatre
Company, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta College of Art, High Museum of
Art and 14th Street Playhouse, is working to streamline expenses and
increase revenues, said Kathleen Smith, the center's vice president of
communications and initiatives.

Many nonprofits are optimistic that donors will return to supporting local
charities due to recent news reports that Sept. 11 relief funds are

"Our hope and belief is that this is a short-term impact on individual
giving," said Amy Macklin, Atlanta Habitat's development director.

As it is, however, due to decreased home sponsorships, Atlanta Habitat will
build 55 homes in fiscal 2002 rather than its usual annual total of 65 to
70. About 55 percent of the annual $5.8 million budget comes from
businesses, schools and other groups that each pay up to $65,000 and provide
about 35 volunteers to build a home.

"Charitable giving is often the first budget item to get cut during tough
times, but the need for decent, affordable housing is just as great now as
always," Macklin said. "I would guess that our citizens have been generous
to the relief efforts, but I know they are also extraordinarily committed to
this community and will do as much, if not more, than usual for their
favorite nonprofits. No one wants to see a decline in services to the people
most in need right in their own back yard."

Demand for services up

At the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which has 700 nonprofit partners that
assist hungry people in metro Atlanta and North Georgia, financial donations
are down 25 percent and food donations about 1 percent compared with this
time last year. But demand for food is up 21 percent due to layoffs and the
softening economy, said Bill Bolling, executive director.

The Food Bank now has to raise more than 50 percent of its annual $5.4
million budget in the final quarter of the year and has 250 food drives and
special events scheduled for the last quarter of the year, compared with the
usual 400. Bolling said he also is worried that the anthrax scare will
adversely impact the organization's direct-mail solicitations going out in

Nonprofits serving women and children also are expecting to be hit hard. The
Partnership Against Domestic Violence, which provides emergency housing for
women and their children, has seen numerous corporations reduce their gifts,
citing the economic slowdown and smaller community project budgets, said
Susan Berryman-Rodriguez, director of community relations.

"With domestic abuse impacting thousands of women and their children, the
services and programs we provide are as important as ever,"
Berryman-Rodriguez said. "However, large donors who made financial pledges
have notified the organization that those gifts were being redirected to the
relief efforts." 

In a recent letter to Stephanie Davis, executive director of the Atlanta
Women's Foundation, Louise Turner, executive director of New Leaf Services
Inc., lamented, "We have no new money and barely enough to sustain the
current participants, but the number of calls from desperate women is rising
significantly." The foundation raises and distributes funds to organizations
such as New Leaf, which provides affordable cars to women without

"We hope to be one of the bridges for them, but when giving is down to us it
has a negative trickle-down to the nonprofits who depend on us for support,"
Davis said. "I have already heard from some major corporate donors that
their grant may not be as generous in 2002 because their philanthropy budget
was one of the first things to be cut."

Monetary donations at Children's Restoration Network also "have slowed way
down since the attacks on Sept. 11," said Cliff Kinsey, co-founder and CEO
of the organization, which houses 1,100 homeless children nightly at 60
metro area shelters.

"We will have to cut back on our outreach programs very soon if donations do
not start to pick up," Kinsey said.

A few bright spots 

Although the outlook seems bleak, there were a few bright spots among survey

Attendance at Dad's Garage Theater Company's comedy improvisation and
children's shows has increased, said Artistic Director Sean Daniels. Patrons
of Georgia Tech's Robert Ferst Center for the Arts also have expressed a
desire to "return to normal," said Alisa M. Smallwood, the center's director
of development. The theater's first two performances of the season were 100
percent and 89 percent sold.

And Roswell's Georgia Ensemble Theatre is having one of its best years ever,
even expecting an increase in individual donations, said Managing Director
Anita Allen-Farley.

In fact, many of the nonprofits surveyed said the events of Sept. 11 might
have sparked an increased interest in giving back to the community, with the
outpouring of money, blood and volunteers.

"That was just a glimpse of what we could do if we had the will to do it,"
Bolling said. "It's just a matter of giving a little more of our time,
giving a little more of our money, and being creative about how we can get
our families and children involved."

Reach Bowman-Littler at wbowmanlittler@bizjournals.com.

Copyright 2001 American City Business Journals Inc.

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