Posted: September 8, 2010, 2:20 p.m. EDT
© Cioli and Hunnicutt/BowTie Studio
A recent survey indicates that animal shelter and rescue groups that assist abandoned rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and other small animals are still suffering from a decline in donations.
Nonprofit organizations continue to suffer in the wake of one of the nation’s worst economic downturns, according to GuideStar USA Inc.’s recent economic survey of public charity and private foundations.
GuideStar, which provides data on more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized nonprofits, conducted the survey online in June. “The Effect of the Economy on the Nonprofit Sector: A June 2010 Survey” elicited responses from about 7,000 organizations, 5 percent of which were animal-related.
“Our survey echoes what we’ve been hearing from the nonprofit sector for the past couple of years,” said Chuck McLean, GuideStar’s vice president for research. “The results prove that nonprofits have a long way to go to achieve the success they experienced before the recession.”
Animal organizations are especially taking a hit, specifically the animal shelter and rescue groups, he added.
The survey revealed that about 43 percent of respondents representing the animal sector reported a further decline in contributions in the first five months of 2010 compared to the year-ago period.
Reasons for the decreased contributions, as reported by the animal organizations, included less individual giving (88 percent), smaller gifts from individuals (72 percent), smaller private foundation grants (32 percent), smaller corporate gifts (21 percent), discontinuation of private foundation grants (19 percent), discontinuation of corporate gifts (14 percent), discontinuation of government grants (2 percent), discontinuation of government contracts (2 percent), smaller government grants (2 percent) and factors listed as other (6 percent).
At the same time, however, 69 percent of the animal groups saw an increase in demand for their services.
“People are scared about making choices about where to spend their money,” McLean said. “They perceive there are fewer charitable dollars to give.”
Going through the surveys, McLean said that he can sense how strongly these animal organizations feel about their mission.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said, referring to how the economy has impacted these groups.
Other survey findings within the animal sector:
• Twelve percent of respondents indicated that their organizations were in imminent danger of closing.
• In order to balance budgets, 16 percent of respondents cut their budgets, including reducing program services (66 percent) and laying off employees (11 percent).
• Among the 97 percent of animal organizations that use volunteers, 12 percent used one or more in what had formerly been paid positions.
• About 35 percent of animal organizations increased their reliance on volunteers, whereas 17 percent experienced a decline.
“In general, the United States is very generous but people are not giving like they used to,” McLean said. “I believe people will snap back quickly once the recession lifts, but we have to see how long the recession lasts.”
McLean said that he’s curious to see if there will be a catch-up period, meaning that once people start giving again they will up their donation to compensate for previous tight or closed pocketbooks.
But in the end, people need to feel comfortable before they give again, he said.
To help draw in more donations, nonprofits in all sectors are looking for different and creative ways to raise money and get noticed, McLean said. For instance, McLean noted that nonprofits seem to be investing more time and energy into connecting with people who have supported them in the past, working at building and sustaining relationships.
“But many didn’t just start now,” he said. “They have been connecting for a while. This can make a difference in how people give.”
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