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Economy has direct impact on the amount of giving non-profits are seeing

30 percent decline in giving

The Mississippi Center for Nonprofits (MCN) serves as a resource center for nonprofit organizations across the state. Founded in 1992, the MCN serves 400 members.

Like most everybody else, the MCN is feeling the pinch of a recession economy.

Corporate donors make up the bulk of the Center’s base, and with corporations navigating an economic downturn, donations to charities have been reduced right along with payrolls.

“(Corporate giving and foundation giving) both rely on the stock market economy,” said MCN executive director Mark McCrary. “Consequently, that giving makes up the vast majority of an overall 30 percent decline for us.”

There two edges to the sword, though.

“On the other hand, we also have a diversified enough funding base, that we’re seeing an increase in (paid) registrations at our workshops, a greater interest in nonprofits staying closer to home so they don’t have to travel out of state or travel to Jackson,” McCrary said. “We go out to other parts of the state to do training. Our webinars are doing well, too. That doesn’t mean it’s a huge chunk of money. It’s just an interesting dynamic that we’re beginning to see in our own financial structure.”

The downward trend in revenue at MCN became noticeable last October, McCrary said.

The MCN’s budget year runs from January to December.

“This year has been particularly quite a ride, in that regard. But, we’ve also repackaged some of our things. On one hand we have a 30 percent drop overall, but we’re also seeing some funders either maintain or increase (their donations) if we can tie it to a specific need to the nonprofits. (Corporations are) still giving. We’re just seeing a decrease in what they give.”

To combat the downturn, the MCN has developed a strategy that calls for a return to the fundamentals of fundraising. The Center has identified existing friends and donors. It has had meetings and conversations with them to stay in touch and keep open the lines of communication, McCrary said. McCrary said donors who have lapsed are being re-approached.

An intense focus has been on training and education. “That really is key, for nonprofits to have access to adequate information,” McCrary said. “It’s really a retrenchment toward a basic model of service based on our mission. We’re not doing anything different than anybody else.”

A new “Budget Empowerment Plan” the Center created calls for freezing expenses, trimming staff and ramping up marketing efforts to identify and bring in new streams of revenue. Because staff has shrunk, McCrary said, responsibilities have been reshuffled, with most remaining members taking on new areas of service.

The Center is even making a move the U.S. newspaper industry has been forced to make.

“We’ve reduced the number of publications we print in favor of having it electronically available on our web site,” McCrary said.

The only thing that has stayed fully intact is the Center’s package of services to its members.

There is reason for optimism, McCrary said. The back-to-basics approach has re-cultivated some potentially productive relationships with existing and prospective donors.

“We’re not sure we’re going to see a continuing erosion of our funding,” McCrary said.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which appropriated millions to nonprofits, could provide a substantial boost once that money starts to trickle down. The National Corporation for Community Service will distribute the stimulus money to nonprofits across the country, including those in Mississippi.

“That’s a potential opportunity,” McCrary said. “I have faith. I think that we’ll hit the bottom a little bit sooner than 2010, and we’ll see a better opportunity or at least create new opportunities for ourselves.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@msbusiness.com .

About Clay Chandler

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