Giving until it hurts 

A decreasing number of donors and the never-ending search for funds have forced some of Missoula’s most active charitable organizations to start counting their pennies and tightening their belts. But what’s behind the drop in donations? Cindy Weese, executive director of the YWCA of Missoula, suspects a combination of factors, including the slumping economy, donor fatigue and too many local nonprofit organizations all vying for their share of the pie. Regardless, Weese says, it’s getting more and more difficult—all the way around—for nonprofits to raise funds, and ultimately it is the people in need of the services these organizations provide who will be most affected. Recently, the YWCA underwent a 40 percent cut of a federal grant intended to fund its Transitional Housing Program, an 18-month independent living plan for homeless women and their children.

As federal funding keeps shrinking, Weese says, the YWCA is faced with the risk of cutting more programs and relying ever more heavily on individual donors and the organization’s two Secret Seconds resale stores.

“We have many programs in need, and those programs depend on individual donors to support us each year,” Weese says. “It’s a challenge because we need to ask our donors, who have already given to us, for additional funds.” What Weese has noticed is that while donors in Missoula are generous, the surfeit of worthy causes in town is beginning to exhaust them a bit.

Solution? “It’d be nice if the stock market picked-up,” she says. But if the hazy economic outlook continues and the heads of more federally funded programs are laid in the guillotine, Weese advises nonprofits to become more mindful of not duplicating services. Also, pooling resources among different organizations on similar projects can help reduce expenses. And to instill (and reward) donor confidence and trust: Do a better job of ensuring that donors’ contributions are matched with the causes they support.

“Nonprofits need to step up and recognize that donors expect us to do the best we can with their gifts and contributions to us,” she says. “Thank god for our individual donors, they’re our bread and butter.”

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