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Panel Discussion on the Funding of Not For Profits

July 17, 2009 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Today we had a panel discussion that dealt with the challenges of the not-for-profit sector. The economy has hit almost every segnment of the buisiness community and the results have created a daunting situation for charitable organizations.

Participating in the discussion were Michael Cooney-United Way, Diane Amorosa-American Red Cross, Jovanna Little- Leslie Munzer Neurological Institute, Paul Pachter- Long Island Cares, and Michael Stoltz-Clubhouse of Suffolk.

Some of these charities depend on recurring grants from government, but local and state governments have been experiencing unprecedented revenue problems of their own. Some charities have endowments funded by the benefactor and others are funding themselves through the generousity of the general public through fund drives. All of them in fact depend on each of these sources in varying degrees.

The question posed this morning asked what are these various units doing to survive these challenging economic times. We know that all of these funding channels are not what they have been in the past. Even those charities that are blessed with substantial endowments are not seeing the returns they were receivcing in the past. Indeed some lost substantial sums of money which may never be recovered. With job losses, the individual donor is contributing less or not at all.

On top of this the need for most of these services rises dramatically with a faltering economy. Between 280,000 and 300,000 people on Long Island (about 10%) needing some degree of food assistance program it is clear we are doing something wrong.

The answers we got ran from the obvious to the more creative. In one case some staff was let go. Of course that further burdens the remaining staff at a time when there is great need. Most of the focus was on seeing where they could obtain services and products more economically, relying on volunteers where possible, and jetisoning less productive programs.

In the case of Long Island Cares they have partnered with a radio station that has a target demographic that ranges from 20 to 34 years old. At first glance that would seem to be counter-intuitive since we traditionally look to the established and economicly secure segment of the population, but their plan is to engage this part of the population and keep them in the fold as they grow and prosper themselves.

In the end the conversation led us to the way we are all very much squeezed by the high taxes of this balkanized Long Island. The school districts are killing our ability to pay for almost everything else, partly because teachers are highly paid, but more because schools are over administrated. The 127 school districts and the army of administrators that are employed are redundant and prohibitivly costly.  

Another drain on our overall dollars are the Taj-Mahal firehouse that abound all over Long Island and they are costing us dearly. A more rational system would dictate a fire force that was designed for the kind of fires we usually need to fight. We have fire fighting equipment to fight fires in buildings we do not have on Long Island.

These charities, that we all recognize as needed, are scrambling for what scraps are left after the politically well connected entities gorge themselves on our tax dollars.  Theese taxes are forcing people to leave for cheap places to live. One man told me he’s moving to Waco Texas because he can live nicely on his social security. I guess what he meant was he could afford to eat. To most of us think living nicely means living right here on Long Island, and yes, eating too.

Man! If we only had some leadership.