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Nonprofits Get Creative To Make Ends Meet

By Sujata Srinivasan

October 18, 2010

Connecticut nonprofits — some stretched to the hilt like pizza dough — have adopted austerity measures ranging from layoffs and hiring freezes to reductions in employee healthcare contributions and relocation to smaller offices.

“Yes, there are organizations that are hurting, and then there are organizations that are able to sustain themselves without major contractions,” says Ron Cretaro, executive director, Connecticut Association of Nonprofits.

Nimble nonprofits who are creative in finding new donors and new ways to cut costs are poised to serve a growing client-base.

Nearly 70 percent of clients served by The Village for Families & Children, Inc. in Hartford are below the federal poverty level. “There is a significant increase in the demand for basic human needs — people looking for help with rent, school supplies, housing. We are seeing more families exposed to emotional stress; this has immediate repercussions on the children,” says Dr. Galo Rodriguez, CEO.

Rodriguez says the Village has stepped up its fundraising events and is further tapping into the voluntary resource pool. “We partner with major corporations in Hartford whose employees offer their time, helping us with all kinds of work including repair and maintenance,” he says, adding the Village has seen an increase in the number of volunteers this year.

“People are genuinely more compassionate because of the recession,” he believes. Some nonprofits also report that people who were laid-off and searching for jobs are choosing to volunteer in the meantime, hoping to maintain a daily routine while doing good.

Richard Porth, CEO, United Way of Connecticut 2-1-1, a free information and referral service that includes suicide counseling, says he hopes for the best but is preparing for the worst. The nonprofit moved to a smaller location, improved communication efficiencies, and retrenched a small number of employees.

The local unit receives approximately 20 percent of its funding from United Way and the remaining from the state. Now, it’s in the process of widening its revenue base. “Last year, we began to work for 2-1-1 in New Hampshire, handling their calls after office hours. It’s our hope that we can do more work for 2-1-1s in other states,” Porth says.

Not too long ago, there was speculation that the historic Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford would close its doors permanently. But things have changed.

The museum has extensively reached out to its base of current and prospective supporters via the popular social media networks Facebook and Twitter, as well as a blog, thereby widening its traditional channel of communication.

The state’s nonprofits can take some comfort that large foundations such as the United Technologies Corp. and Aetna, Inc. have no plans to shrink donations in the coming year.

“United Technologies is a long-time and major supporter of United Way. This year’s campaign is underway and UTC expects that company and employee donations will again this year represent the largest contribution in the region,” says Andy Olivastro, manager, UTC community affairs.

Susan G. Millerick, spokeswoman for the Aetna Foundation, says Aetna has identified three focus areas for grantmaking in 2010 and beyond — obesity in the U.S., promoting racial and ethnic equity in healthcare, and the advancement of an integrated healthcare system.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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