Gifts, foundation grant ease NAACP's deficit

November 19, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

The NAACP's crushing deficit grew a little lighter yesterday as newly released Ford Foundation grants and other gifts pumped more than $1 million into the civil rights group's coffers.

In a letter to corporate and foundation donors, Earl T. Shinhoster, NAACP interim senior administrator, said the Ford Foundation had released a $250,000 grant to the organization. The foundation confirmed the release of the money.

Mr. Shinhoster said the Ford Foundation also had authorized the NAACP to withdraw money from an emergency fund set up nearly two years ago with a grant from the foundation. NAACP sources said $250,000 would be withdrawn by year's end.

Mr. Shinhoster did not say whether the fresh cash would permit the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to recall furloughed staff members after Thanksgiving. About 88 employees are on a monthlong unpaid furlough because the NAACP couldn't make its payroll.

Sandra Almond, president of Local 2202N of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 40 NAACP employees, said the union was "in the dark."

"People are upset," she said. "It's time they come face to face with us and let us know what's going on so people will know whether or not to look for a job. They're very inconsiderate to the staff." Ms. Almond said she expected layoffs.

"Even with the news about Ford, he can't call the whole staff back and pay the bills. Those creditors are knocking at the door," she said.

Still, the Ford Foundation decision was the best financial news the Baltimore-based NAACP has had since its financial crisis became public more than six months ago.

The NAACP faces a deficit of nearly $4 million. The Ford Foundation funds and other contributions could reduce the debt by more than one-quarter, said Gilbert Jonas, the NAACP's chief fund-raiser.

In addition to the Ford Foundation money, the NAACP has received:

* Nearly $400,000 from NAACP state conferences and branches in response to a special appeal.

* $80,000 in response to a direct-mail solicitation last month. Another, larger mailing went out last week, and a third is scheduled for next week.

* $160,000 in gifts from seven large corporations, including Westinghouse and General Mills. Mr. Jonas said the NAACP has received $3 million this year in corporate gifts, about the same amount that had been received last year at this time.

Other gifts have been promised. Members of the NAACP board and Special Contribution Fund trustees are expected to give $450,000 toward reducing the deficit, Mr. Shinhoster said in his letter, which was dated yesterday.

The AFL-CIO pledged $250,000 to the NAACP last month but has yet to deliver the funds.

Mr. Jonas said a hopeful "pattern is beginning to emerge."

"Only one corporation [Continental Edison] absolutely turned us down because of recent events," said Mr. Jonas, referring to the Aug. 20 firing of Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. as executive director and recent allegations that board Chairman William F. Gibson has spent NAACP funds recklessly.

In a reflection of the NAACP's desperate financial condition, Mr. Jonas said the organization owes him $300,000 and is "spoon-feeding" him just enough money to get out fund-raising mailings.

Mr. Shinhoster said in his letter that the NAACP was "recruiting a blue-ribbon committee of notable African-Americans who are neither officers nor board members to oversee the progress which the national NAACP makes in reforming its practices." The letter was sent to 110 corporations and foundations that have not made gifts to the NAACP this year.

Last month, the NAACP board ordered an audit of the spending of Dr. Gibson and other NAACP officers, but no firm has been hired to do the work. The chairman, who has denied any financial impropriety, will be up for re-election in February.

With Ford Foundation help, the Price Waterhouse accounting firm has "agreed to take a four-month assignment to shore up the NAACP's financial management systems and controls," Mr. Shinhoster wrote.

He said the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering had agreed to provide a senior associate at no cost to assist the NAACP in "non-civil rights matters," including debt restructuring and defending civil suits against the organization.

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