Another year of a weak economy has brought another tough year for local charitable organizations wanting to serve those in need.
Many nonprofits are reporting both below-normal donations for the year and difficulty collecting contributions for annual Christmas fundraisers, which for some organizations are the biggest source of funding.
Children’s toys and canned goods slowly trickled in during drives.
Mail appeals requesting financial contributions received few replies.
Organizations held extra golf tournaments and fundraising walks and runs, praying they would find the funds to assist the hungry, mentally ill, abused, unemployed and others in crisis.
LaVerne Gold, the executive director of United Way of the CSRA, said charitable giving hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels.
“People who used to give are now on the receiving end,” Gold said.
The tighter years at local charities mirror the outlook nationally.
From August to October, national giving was down 4 percent, said Michael Nilsen, a spokesman for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
“Unfortunately, it’s still a lot of the same. We’re seeing very flat giving right now,” Nilsen said.
At Golden Harvest Food Bank, the primary distributor of food and products to food pantries in 30 counties, annual contributions are down 6.8 percent from 2011, said Derek Dugan, the community relations director.
Golden Harvest’s annual It’s Spooky to Be Hungry food drive collected 113,000 pounds of food, compared with 153,215 pounds the previous year. The initial total of money donations to the campaign was also lower.
Generous people have been stepping up to fill the need, however.
An anonymous donor who didn’t want Golden Harvest to fall short made a final contribution that exceeded the It’s Spooky to Be Hungry goal, Dugan said.
The Salvation Army of Augusta turned to creative measures, as many organizations have been forced to do, to help its annual Red Kettle campaign, which ends Christmas Eve. As the fundraiser entered the final week $83,000 short of its $250,000 goal, the organization staged a contest for three of its bell ringers to collect money nonstop for several days.
“The good news is whenever we put the plea out and we are falling behind, there’s always a willing heart out there that sees that need,” said Capt. Tony Perez, the administrator of the Salvation Army of Augusta.
The Salvation Army’s seasonal fundraising, which runs from Nov. 1 to the end of the year, is 2 percent below its goal.
Because seasonal fundraising is 75 percent of the organization’s yearly budget, even a small dip has big consequences, Perez said.
The outcome of the federal government’s fiscal negotiations and changes to tax deductions could affect the year-end giving of many large donors, Nilsen said.
Should tax deductions be reduced even slightly, giving could decline by an estimated $7 billion, Nilsen said.
A complete elimination of tax deductions for charitable giving could have an $80 billion effect, Nilsen said.
Long-term forecasts show that fundraising could continue to struggle for several more years, Nilsen said.
“You’ve got to face that this is a new reality,” he said. “It takes different strategies and, unfortunately, a lot of work.”