42% of Virginia charities facing deficits

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - High unemployment and foreclosures are leading more families to turn to local non-profits for food, clothes, shelter, and jobs. But nearly half of all charities in Virginia are operating in the red.

Studies by both the Urban Institute and The Community Foundation in Richmond show that about 42% of Virginia charities have either had deficits or will this year. But many are still serving more people by getting creative.

The demand for services is still growing. Just ask the Central Virginia Food Bank. Said Warren Hammonds with Feed More, "The food referral need has increased by 65%. That's in two years."

Or talk to Homeward, which fights homelessness. Said Executive Director Kelly King Horne, "People who are on the edge of homelessness has increased."

Meanwhile, non-profits are getting fewer donations, not just from individuals, but from governments, corporations and foundations. Said Susan Hallett with The Community Foundation, "I think there are some organizations that don't have the infrastructure in place to survive an economy like this. But a big trend that we're seeing is organizations working together, finding ways to partner."

That's the good news. Agencies are sharing staff and resources, such as Homeward and St. Joe's Villa, and the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. Said Hammonds, "Some positions have been combined or transferred or merged together. A lot of our volunteer department needs are handled collectively."

And they're just plain operating leaner and meaner. Explained King Horne, "We've cut our expenses 14% over the last two years. We've cut our staff."

The Community Foundation donated $2 million in emergency funds to help some agencies meet the growing demand. Said Darcy Oman, The Community Foundation's President and CEO, "Those dollars went to food security, employment services, housing assistance and assistance with home foreclosure prevention."

And despite the challenges, some non-profits are finding success. Said King Horne, "Street homelessness was down 17% form 2009 to 2010, and that was by concentrating our efforts to really make a difference."

The outlook isn't as quite as bad as expected. Many organizations were expecting financial support to drop 15-20%, but are only seeing a 10% decrease.

If you'd like to support a charity, you can through a new website called http://www.giverichmond.org. It covers hundreds of charities.

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