Charities get mixed results

Donations: Many Maryland organizations suffered in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and from a troubled economy, but others did better than expected.

January 11, 2002|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

The terrorist attacks Sept. 11 and the ailing economy made the holiday season less than successful for many Maryland charities -- but some were cheered by a better than expected stream of donations.

Direct-mail contributions fell at Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake, but a special fund-raiser and a rise in foundation gifts for programs left the charity with an increase.

The Combined Federal Campaign for federal workers in Western Maryland had to be extended for two weeks, but in the end it surpassed its total for 2000.

And United Way of Central Maryland is only a few percentage points short of the amount its campaign had raised by this time last year.

"I think there is a little bit of donor fatigue out there," said Bill Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank, where food donations were about 20 percent lower than they were the previous year. "I think there is that pall that settles over people, the middle-class people who feel that they're one paycheck away from something happening."

But many organizations say the dire predictions they made shortly after the terrorist attacks -- when donors were giving an unprecedented $1.3 billion to help the terrorists' victims -- have, by and large, not come true.

"Most of us who do year-end appeals are seeing our campaigns a little bit down, but nothing to be alarmed over," said Geannine Hladky, vice president of development of the American Lung Association of Maryland and president of the state's chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

A notable local exception is Junior Achievement of Central Maryland, which has seen about 110 corporate donors pull back their normal contributions -- at least for now. If those donations don't ultimately come through, the organization might have to cut in half its programs, which serve 20,000 children in public and private schools.

"A lot have said, `We contributed to the relief effort,' and also `We're looking at our own company to see if we have to do layoffs or cutbacks before we can make any contributions,'" said Bonnae Meshulam, president of the organization.

Experts also reported a mixed holiday donation season around the country.

Survey after attacks

A survey commissioned after the attacks by Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofit agencies, found that 73 percent of those interviewed did not plan to curtail their usual giving, even after they had contributed to Sept. 11 causes. But half of those surveyed said an economic slowdown would reduce their giving.

And a semiannual Philanthropic Giving Index compiled by Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, which measures fund-raisers' perceptions of how generous donors might be over a six-month period, fell 8.2 percent between summer and the end of the year.

Eugene R. Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, said media reporting on the worries of nonprofit groups spurred end-of-the-year reprieves for many. "I do think that late in December, a lot of organizations that were having difficulty experienced a turnaround," he said.

That's what happened at the Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore, where officials had been alarmed at the trickle of coins into Christmas kettles. They had been telling families who applied for holiday help that none might be available this year.

Then the trickle became a flood, and the organization ended up with 18 percent more than it raised in its 2000 kettle campaign. Its direct-mail appeal was up by 20 percent. "The last two weeks, we just surged," said spokeswoman Lafeea Watson.

At Goodwill, donated goods shot up 56 percent during the last weeks of the year, compared with the same period of 2000.

Ewing attributed the food bank's shortfall principally to the tactical error of not inserting a grocery bag into each newspaper for the Good Neighbor Food & Funds campaign, which encourages shoppers to buy and leave canned goods for the hungry at local Giant stores.

Food drive extended

The food drive is being extended through the end of this month to try to make up the difference. The food bank also is trying to encourage people to hold "Souper Bowl" parties timed to the football championship that might bring in soup and other canned goods.

A campaign to collect food in Maryland schools, Kids Helping Kids, surpassed last year's effort, attracting 326 schools and collecting 330,000 pounds of food.

United Way of Central Maryland has raised 74 percent of its $45 million goal for an annual campaign that ends next month, said spokesman Patrick Smith. At the same time last year, 80 percent of the campaign's $43 million goal had been raised.

The money has been a bit harder to come by this time around, Smith said. "We've had to rely on some larger gifts," he said. "People are being as generous as they can be, but the economy has certainly put a dent in philanthropy all the way around."

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