The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Non-profits feel economic pinch

Summer Santa, a non-profit organization in Fort Worth, provides underprivileged children with toys, summer camps and after school activities. This year, it appears that the number children who receive these opportunities will be limited.

Many non-profits around the country are dealing with issues such as how to raise money in the current economic slump. Dallas-Fort Worth organizations are no exception. As they are feeling the effects of the market, they are putting more effort than ever into making fundraisers more personal to raise more money.

Sue Howery, Chairman of Summer Santa, is involved in many non-profit organizations. Overall, she feels that the recent stock market collapse has had an intense impact on their assets.

Summer Santa, and other non-profit organizations, must face the fact that “whatever happened in the past, [they should] expect half as much,” said Howery.

A few dollars less in the organization’s account is more than a problem. The focus is not only on the survival of the company, but also on its efforts. Without this camp, that child from a lower-income family may have nothing to do this summer while his parents are at work.

The formerly big events that raised incredible amounts of money for an organization are producing fewer results.

Summer Santa experienced this when hosting an event earlier this year: they “had about half as many people participate and had about half as much money as last year,” Howery said.

As volunteers at Summer Santa begin to worry about fewer children being able to attend this year, the organization is shifting to different methods to maintain donors.

Even as the market managed to rise last week, confidence in donors remains low. As the public hears of the bad economy, “people are picking and choosing who they contribute to,” said Howery.

The organization’s main focus then switches to doing all they can to make the donors choose them.

In order to do this, “we give them more with what they want,” she said. “The main thing is face-to-face interaction-making it more personal.”

Non-profit organizations have always had their work cut out for them, but this year they appear to have a bigger slice.

Summer Santa is just one of the many non-profits that is pushing harder this year.

Anita Stevenson, Regional Fields Representative for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, feels that the economy has left its mark on the organization.

“The MDA has always had a reserve fund,” she said. “The economic downturn has affected that.”

The MDA has been proficient in providing money for services and research for Muscular Dystrophy since its founding in 1950. The market is making it difficult to keep such high expectations. Similar to Summer Santa, the MDA is finding contributions to be less than before.

If a person “normally donates $10,000, today, the contribution is only $1,000,” Stevenson said.

Their efforts to offset the lowering economy are to push the smaller events.

“MDA is fortunate in that they use grass-roots fundraising,” she said.

Those grass-roots events such as the Fill the Boot drive have seen an increase this year. The social events, where a filled table may cost thousands, are the ones that are feeling the economic blow.

“The smaller fundraising does well even in a down economy,” said Stevenson. “Our concentration will be in those grass roots fundraisers. Now would not be a good time to start a social event.”

The Dallas Foundation, a reputable organization acting as a catalyst between donors and philanthropies, has felt similar impacts.

While they are not necessarily in the same category of non-profits like the MDA, the Dallas Foundation has noticed a difference because of the economy, according to Laura Smith, director of community philanthropy.

“Our assets are down officially 17 percent,” she said. “And we certainly have felt the affect of that.”

For the Dallas Foundation, they have a different method other than personal relationships to raise money.

“We’re looking that the spending levels are set,” Smith said.

Whether it is keeping personal relations, keeping the fundraisers close to home or simply watching the budget, non-profits have no easy task in this economy

It appears that the market may be back on the rise, so perhaps the confidence in donors will rise as well. Meanwhile, non-profits must do what they can to continue their philanthropies.

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