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With greater need and fewer dollars, NH nonprofits compete for funds

Last modified: 9/24/2015 12:27:49 AM
The Friends Program in Concord used to receive more state funding for its four programs – a family homeless shelter, a foster grandparent program, a volunteer program for seniors and a youth mentoring program.

But Executive Director Jerry Madden doesn’t like to reminisce.

“I put a lot of the state funding in my rearview mirror a few years ago, because it’s not coming back,” Madden said.

He was, however, surprised to see a downtick in funding from Granite United Way. In 2006, the organization awarded a total of $160,000 in grants to the Friends Program. By this year, the total came in a little over $53,000. The family shelter alone, which has received $35,000 in years past, didn’t receive any money at all.

The Friends Program is no exception in the nonprofit sector. As state and federal funding has remained static or shriveled, competition for private dollars has only grown more intense.

“An awful lot of organizations – and we’re no exception – have our hands out trying to find other means of funding,” Madden said.

So both nonprofits and private funding agencies have been forced to adapt. At the Friends Program, Madden had to cut hours across the board. At Granite United Way, President and CEO Patrick Tufts said a new strategic plan meant 30 percent fewer applicants received awards this year.

“If there’s changes in government funding, then a lot more agencies are going to depend on United Way money,” Tufts said.

More nonprofits, 
more competition

Even as government funding has decreased, Tufts described an unprecedented growth in the number of nonprofits over the past several years. New Hampshire is home to nearly 10,000 nonprofits, he said.

“I get calls at least two or three times a week from somebody who wants advice on becoming a nonprofit,” Tufts said. “And I frequently direct them to a nonprofit in the community that is already doing the work that they want to do.”

With more nonprofits, donors are also more specific with their gifts. Donations to United Way have traditionally been unrestricted, but last year, 35 percent of gifts – $1.5 million – were directed to a particular agency or nonprofit. Tufts said that figure has been growing annually by about 5 percent, so the pot of unrestricted money for grants is getting smaller and smaller each year.

“Individuals and corporations don’t necessarily give the same way they did,” Tufts said.

Michael Ostrowski, the interim executive director at the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, said even public entities like schools now need to raise private dollars for their projects and extracurricular activities. And, he said, New Hampshire also has a reputation of being one of the stingier states.

“That has increased the competition level for some of the more traditional nonprofits, like the Girl Scouts and the Red Cross,” he said.

That shift is happening at a time when the demand on nonprofits is also growing.

“With the devolution of state responsibility, with the state doing less and less, the reliance on nonprofits has become greater and greater,” Ostrowski said. “Dealing with the homeless, for example, or providing supportive services for the mentally ill or people with other disabilities.”

So Granite United Way wrote a new strategic plan, which was implemented for the first time this year. Applications are now evaluated in one of three specific areas – health, income and education. The grant requests need to be more specific, Tufts said, and Granite United Way needs to see more detail on the future outcomes of the programs it funds.

This year, $6.3 million in grants was awarded across the state. Nearly $1 million went to applicants in Merrimack County, like the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness and the Capital Area Public Health Network.

“We’re funding more agencies and more programs than we ever have,” Tufts said. “We’re just funding them in different ways.”

The bottom line

Some agencies received more money due to the change at Granite United Way; some received less. But most have also experienced more dramatic cuts at the state or federal level as well.

At the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, tax forms show revenue from public and private sources has dropped by more than $50,000 in five years. Because of those cuts, Executive Director Jill Rockey said the organization has downsized from seven to five people.

“I don’t want to go out and compete against Child and Family Services or New Hampshire Legal Assistance or the Boys and Girls Club for funding, but because of the cuts that we’ve received, we’re going to have to,” Rockey said. “We’re all serving, if not the same people, the very same pools of people.”

The Crisis Center has received about $21,000 less from Granite United Way in the past three years.

“Granite United Way cannot be the one to pick up the slack for everybody,” Rockey said. “They cannot replace our government, and they can’t replace taxpayer dollars for everything.”

This year, CEO Borja Alvarez de Toledo said Child and Family Services received about $100,000 less from Granite United Way. That included $50,000 for a program to help homeless youth.

To make up that gap, the nonprofit organized a first-time fundraiser; about 50 people slept outside on an 18-degree night in Manchester to raise money and awareness for homelessness.

“We’ve become very creative,” Alvarez de Toledo said.

The organization has needed to, because it has also lost about $1 million in state contracts and other government funding over the years. Now, about 15 percent of the $11.7 million budget comes from fundraising. That figure used to be 12 percent.

“We want to make sure we don’t impact the services that we provide, and what that means is we have to fundraise more,” Alvarez de Toledo said. “Our development office has a lot of pressure to go out there and write grants.”

The Friends Program has about a tenth of the budget of Child and Family Services, so Madden said finding staff time in his organization to write grants is difficult. But he praised the staff at Granite United Way, which has been helping the Friends Program strengthen its application next year.

“That doesn’t change the bottom line,” Madden said. “But we’re all up against it.”

For more information about the programs supported by Granite United Way, visit graniteuw.org.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)


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