Nonprofits feeling pinch at greatest time of need
ASPEN – The Aspen Community Foundation has delivered critical grants to numerous nonprofit organizations in recent months despite its own tough times of raising funds.
ACF has doled out about $1 million in grants to about 60 nonprofit organizations from Aspen to Parachute since February, according to executive director Tamara Tormohlen. Those grant amounts and recipients are selected by ACF staff, but the focus has been on organizations providing services critical to helping valley residents deal with the recession.
The grants were possible, in large part, because of a winter fundraising effort that exceeded expectations. ACF aimed to raise $400,000, or about 20 percent less than the prior year during its winter drive. It raised $750,000, compared to $500,000 the year before.
“Giving doesn’t really stop at times of economic turmoil,” Tormohlen said. “People still want to give.”
The winter fundraiser put a positive end to a brutal 2008 for ACF. The organization’s total contributions were $5.85 million last year – down 52 percent from the $12.16 million collected the year before. So far, the organization has received $1.09 million in contributions this year.
“Yes, there is a pinch,” Tormohlen acknowledged.
But there is also generosity. She recalled receiving a letter from a couple who had given about $100,000 in contributions in recent years. They said they couldn’t afford to contribute much in 2008, but it was still important for them to donate a token amount. They sent a check for $100.
ACF wasn’t the only organization experiencing trouble collecting contributions last year. The Giving Foundation USA, a research organization backed by the fund-raising industry, found that gifts and pledges fell 5.7 percent from 2007, when adjusted for inflation. That was the largest drop in five decades, according to a report by The New York Times.
Despite the recession, the $308 billion or so in donations last year was the largest amount ever, excepting 2007.
The Giving USA Foundation’s study found that donors tended to pull in the reins later in 2008, when the impact of the economic crisis became more clear. ACF bucked that trend with the strong winter fundraiser.
Tormohlen said that all fund-raising letters included a personal note from a member of the organization’s board of directors or a staff member. Those personal notes are a small but effective step that appeals to potential donors, she said.
In addition, ACF has strong credibility after nearly 30 years in Aspen. Donors know their dollars will be channeled into effective programs. And finally, there was a strong desire on the part of donors to contribute to nonprofits that are helping families and individuals cope with the economic crisis, Tormohlen said.
Contributors to ACF have options on how their money is used. They can donate to an unrestricted fund, which the staff uses for grants, or they can contribute for specific nonprofits or causes. In the latter way, ACF passes the money on or plays matchmaker.
ACF gave $3.8 million via all its grants in 2008, compared to $7.04 million the year before. So far this year, it has awarded $1.09 million.
Tormohlen said ACF has to be realistic about its expectations for this year. The trend is for donors to decrease the number of organizations they contribute to, and to contribute smaller dollar amounts. Nevertheless, because of its credibility and proven record, ACF will continue to play a vital role helping other nonprofits.
“The foundation is well-positioned,” she said.
The Right Door – $30,000
Advocate Safehouse Program – $30,000
Mountain Family Health Center – $30,000
Family Visitor Programs – $25,000
RESPONSE – $22,054
R.F. Family Resource Centers – $22,000
YouthZone – $20,000
*These organizations had their grant requests fully funded.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.