As charities in the Colorado Springs area tally their final donations for 2012, some say they’ll end the year slightly higher than 2011, despite the concerns of possible donor fatigue after the Waldo Canyon fire.
But another factor has come into play for many of the region’s nonprofits as they head into 2013. They’re facing the reality that the city’s ranks of economically disadvantaged who need assistance are continuing to grow, despite the improving national economy.
The public’s limits were stretched in 2012, but the region responded with a remarkable wave of generosity during and after the Waldo Canyon fire. And charities say people were still generous at the end of the year.
“I think they realize that unemployment is still really high here, and that they need to help those people,” said Larry Yonker, chief development officer for the Springs Rescue Mission. “We haven’t seen any slowdown of people who need help, who need food.”
In fact, Yonker said that the nonprofit was helping more clients than ever before — including young people just getting started in jobs and families.
“We see a lot of young moms who need diapers, a lot of people looking for clothes and furniture,” he said. “But most people need food. It’s just that basic.”
Springs Rescue Mission was one of several nonprofits that had empty shelves and smaller bank accounts this past summer as people responded to needs during and after the Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed or damaged nearly 400 homes and took two lives. But after a call for more food donations, Yonker said the community responded.
“Our cupboards were bare,” he said. “One of our major suppliers of food is Care & Share [Food Bank of Southern Colorado], and they had all these donations that were solely for the fire victims. We were in a tough place.”
But donations came in after the fire — and after the elections, the charity saw increased giving in November.
“It was so surprising, we had such a successful November, that we’re going to end the year slightly up over 2011,” he said. “It seemed that after the elections, we just had a wave of giving. It was very gratifying.”
Much of that success started with a partnership with Care & Share to collect Thanksgiving turkeys for local families. After that, giving skyrocketed.
“I think people like seeing nonprofits collaborate and partner,” he said. “Plus, people didn’t know where to take their turkeys, with the partnership, it made it easier. And that just seemed to launch a very successful end-of-year drive.”
Catholic Charities leaders said it was too early to know what 2012’s finances looked like, but that the donations so far were up only slightly from the previous year. Yet the number of people who need services, particularly at the Marian House Soup Kitchen, is still on the rise.
“We’re not seeing the 40 percent increases that we saw in 2008 and 2009,” said Janet Hutchinson, director of development for the nonprofit. “But we are still seeing more people at the soup kitchen; it definitely hasn’t dropped.”
There’s been an increase in the number of senior citizens seeking help from Catholic Charities, she said. But families are also seeking services.
“People need food, the basics,” she said. “We’re still seeing demand, even as the economy improves.”
Donations are slightly higher for the year, even after accounting for Waldo Canyon fire donations — which made this year stand out for Catholic Charities.
“We had a lot of donations from out of state, people who gave for the fire, but won’t give again,” Hutchinson said. “We had an amazing response from overseas military bases. Because Catholic Charities is a nationwide nonprofit, people who saw the news gave to us for the fire. We did the same thing for Hurricane Sandy, collected money at the churches and sent them to the East Coast.”
Care & Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado says that it also had many first-time donors, and attributes the increase to its high profile during the wildfire.
“We’re still getting checks every day,” said CEO Lynne Telford. “But we’re seeing a lot of first-time donors even now. I think people started being more aware of what we do — and they’ve responded.”
Once the Waldo Canyon fire donations are separated, Telford said she anticipates donations will be slightly higher — only 2 to 3 percent more — from last year. The food bank collected more than 1.6 million pounds of food for the families who were affected by the fire.
But like the other two nonprofits, more people are showing up at the food bank, she said.
“We definitely haven’t seen a drop,” she said. “It seems like more and more people need help — senior citizens, families. The demand is still very, very strong.”
Care & Share doesn’t ask for details from people who use the food bank — instead, they just open the doors for people in need.
“As a whole, the region’s unemployment is still high, so our services are still needed,” she said.
None of that is news to Dave Somer, executive director of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
“I’ve heard that giving is fairly flat, and that nonprofits are counting on this end-of-year push. Some of the smaller nonprofits are seeing fewer donations than last year,” he said. “It’s too early to have final numbers, though. We haven’t done any surveys, but I’ve heard, anecdotally, that 2012 could end up being a tough year.”
Somer said charities that struggled to meet missions during the Waldo Canyon fire had made up some lost ground, but some were still facing funding challenges. In the month before the fire, United Way of the Pikes Peak Region, a major provider of grants to local nonprofits, cut back funding to many groups.
The year’s end is a critical time for nonprofits, when they encourage people to donate by Dec. 31 in order to take deductions on their income taxes. While 2013 is mere days old, it could be a while before charities are able to tally the final 2012 numbers.
“As long as checks are postmarked by the 31st, we count it in 2012,” Somer said. “So we’ll have to see what the year shapes up to be. Demand for services will still be there in 2013, however, so this final push for donations is extremely important.”
Small, local, little-known nonprofits got an end-of-year boost, thanks to the annual Indy Give! Campaign.
The 2012 campaign, which ended at midnight Dec. 31, raised more than $700,000 for 58 nonprofits, said Claire Swinford, assistant to the publisher at the Colorado Springs Independent. When about $300,000 in matching grants is added in, the campaign will have far surpassed its $800,000 goal, coming close to $1 million.
No matter how the numbers are crunched, 2012 was a record year: $700,000 given by 8,000 individual donors. Indy Give! started in 2009, raising $198,000 for 29 local nonprofits, and has grown steadily each year since then.