As a new administration assumes leadership, non profits across the state brace for changes. From funding challenges to community engagement efforts, leaders of non profits recognize a need for flexibility in their operations moving forward. Recently, a group of non profit executives met to discuss the issues their industry faces and the state of the non profit industry.
The meeting was held at the Las Vegas Offices of City National Bank and Connie Brennan, publisher and CEO of Nevada Business Magazine, served as moderator for the event. These monthly meetings are designed to bring leaders together to discuss issues relevant to their industries. Following is a condensed version of the roundtable discussion.
How do you serve Nevada’s communities?
CAITLIN SHEA: There’s never not going to be a need for places that give out food and clothing and are giving people a place to stay and get back on their feet. Our job and what we’ve committed to do in the coming years is really exposing and putting the awareness out there. There’s 34,000 homeless people in this Southern Nevada area. That’s unacceptable and as we look to grow and work, we’re just excited to know that there’s so many organizations doing great things out here. Our whole mission is helping the homeless. Any organization that is serving the homeless and doing good work to help them, whether it’s food, clothing or shelter, we want to come and build you a facility or renovate it. We do that with a 71 percent in-kind average donation rate of time, labor and materials.
ANDY BISCHEL: The Boys and Girls Club Southern Nevada fills that gap between school and home, and summer programming. There are 14 different clubs throughout the community serving about 22,000 kids and the need is insatiable. We could literally put a club in every neighborhood and still not fulfill that need. It’s not just in those neighborhoods that you think they’re needed in. We would certainly like to get to where you have populations of latchkey kids that don’t have the opportunity to find a place after school and in the summer offering affordable daycare to those areas.
DEACON THOMAS ROBERTS: This past year, we serviced over 100,000 unduplicated clients in lots of different and beautiful ways. We had 515 guys in our night shelter in this deadly cold [recently] and serve an average of 1,000 meals per day to anyone who is hungry to ensure that all of God’s children, wherever they might be, are being fed.
ESTHER GOLLEHER: Realizing that 67 percent of all abortions occur because of economic challenges, we are that charity that helps support families. We are there as a faith-based organization to holistically help them. We provide programs with our pregnancy tests and our ultrasounds, and also with material items such as cribs, car seats and baby clothes up until the baby is two years old. We have realized success because the Las Vegas Review Journal picked up a national [story] that abortion has declined by 22 percen in our state.
What challenges do you face?
ROBERTS: One of the challenges is part of this continuum of having a level of economic recovery or stabilization that many of us are starting to see in this community, but the polarity between those people that are seeing the recovery and those people that many of us serve is growing. As I look through the lens of poverty and desperation, they are not seeing that level of recovery.
GOLLEHER: Nevada has been identified as one of the top states for lack of care with 9 percent of births occuring to mothers with little or no prenatal care. This percentage ranked it 48th of the 50 states and was nearly twice the 3 percent recorded nationally. If given early enough, prenatal care helps to prevent congenital malformations, low birth weight and infant death. Also, the fear of not being able to afford prenatal care is one of the top drivers that lead women to consider abortion. We’re very excited to announce that we’re going to start a prenatal care program in house by the third quarter of this year.
ANTIOCO CARILLO: There’s a stigma that HIV is now curable and people don’t have to worry about it because people are living longer and healthier lives. Yes, I have some clients that have been living with HIV for 33 or 34 years, but we don’t talk about the ones that continually have a difficult time with medication or have died. So the challenge for me is to start working specifically with the youth [about prevention] because the amount of people who get diagnosed with HIV on a monthly basis is about 35 that are reporting.
What funding issues do you have?
FUILALA RILEY: For us, we aren’t very good at fundraising private dollars. Most of our money comes from government grants. When you’re at 90 percent government grant and 10 percent [private funding], 10 percent is not enough to pay for the gap that government funding provides. Having said that, we’re a little nervous on what the future looks like for our programming and funding that is of a government nature. A lot of our funding is federal, either direct or pass-through. That could affect us going forward. We’ll wait and see, but it’s a little scarier for us because we don’t have that private dollar to fall back on.
MARK WHITLEY: I would echo that comment about fundraising. I’ve been CEO for a year and a half and what I identified immediately was that St. Jude’s received between 30 and 40 percent funding from government, so the rest is really between grants and private donations. There has not been the kind of effort to build a strong, reliable donor base and that’s really the primary obstacle.
BRIAN BURTON: I think we’re trembling. “Uncertainty” is too nice a word for it. We’re all very anxious, even those of us that don’t rely heavily on government, because we really don’t know what’s coming. We do know there are many zealots in our federal government that have been wanting to disembowel social service programs, particularly food stamps, for 10 years. Now some of them have been given a platform to do that. The populace is really going to have to rise up and speak up for those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Those non profits that are dependent on one stream of revenue are especially vulnerable in this time.
PAULA LAWRENCE: One of the problems we suffer from is the name of our organization, Dress for Success, is for women. Often times, [potential funders] might say a woman’s group can fund that. Maybe you were raised by a single mom. Maybe she had two jobs and she bought your clothes before she bought her own. We’re really there to help somebody that helps everybody. Some of these organizations that have a specific name in their mission, it helps the whole family when you help us help the people that we’re helping.
GOLLEHER: The challenge that we face right now is always funding. We do not charge our clients anything. No fee for service, its 100 percent complimentary. As a faith-based organization, it’s very important for us to be able to communicate why we do what we do and to allow [clients] to feel like they are valued and cherished by the God that we serve. For that reason, we do not receive any government funding because we can’t provide our programs and separate that part of what we do. So, our funding is 100 percent individual giving and event driven.
BOB BROWN: Opportunity Village is worried about federal funding, even though we get 80 percent of our funding from private sources. In this community, we’re a huge fundraiser. We raise million and millions of dollars a year, but a lot of that money goes into our operations every year. We’re continually having to take all that money in the market, and the state of Nevada is 50th out of 50 states in funding for our population. If they would just do what they’re supposed to do, because I think it’s their responsibility to help us, all that money would be freed up for other reasons. That’s part of the problem we’ve got. We’ve been subsidizing the state of Nevada for so long. It’s a very difficult time because we’re all coming to this realization. I certainly am because I come from the business side. We’re not waiting for the boat, we’re swimming out to it. We’ve got to come up with a different revenue models.
How can non profits attract new funding?
PAUL STOWELL: It’s interesting listening to the challenges of the federal government and how it’s going to shift more of the burden of responsibility to the private sector, corporate funders and private donors and charitable people. Going back many years, I was a part of an organization called Business Community Investment Council (BCIC) and it’s now evolved into Nevada Corporate Giving Council, and then the Greater Good Council from family foundations to the corporate giving side. I see this shift that’s going to put more responsibility back on corporate funders. When you go to the Nevada Corporate Giving Council and you go to the Greater Good Council, it’s the same 20 percent of businesses and wealthy families sitting at the table. There’s still that 80 percent that has not engaged this community from a philanthropic standpoint.
CARILLO: It’s also important to look at private funders and corporations and change the way we present ourselves. By that, I mean I have to do a lot of education with my organization because I’m not just another charity asking for funds every time I have something. I’m not just someone who is inviting people on my board to sit there because they have access to a specific amount of funds. I am a player that can benefit your company. I can benefit your company by educating your employees or your HR department.
WHITLEY: We’re running mission-based businesses, which is a simple statement but a very difficult thing to do. If you think all about mission and forget you’re a business, you won’t be serving anyone. If you think you’re all about business and not about mission, you also won’t be around.
BURTON: All of us are going to have to rethink our business model. That’s very clear. It’s something as silly as a silent auction that’s been going on for 30 years. People are tired of silent auctions and these events. We need to think of a new idea. We really have to rethink what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, look for things to eliminate, ask ourselves if some of the programs that we’re doing might be obsolete or may be done better with someone else.
How do non profits work together?
STOWELL: Since the downturn, non profits have had to get more creative and more innovative in looking at ways to do a better job, but also collaboration has gotten much better between non profits. I think they were a little bit siloed before that. As a private or corporate funder, I see more collaboration, not only with non profits, but with for-profits and the private sector.
BISCHEL: I don’t have to think about food [because of Three Square]. Food shows up to 13 of our 14 clubs and we put it in the refrigerator and we hand it out. That allows us to stay in our core competency of having kids’ programs after school and I don’t have to have a whole separate division thinking about how we feed these kids when they get to our facility.
LAWRENCE: We are 100 percent collaborative, although many women in the community like to walk in our front door and shop in our boutique, that’s not how our services are delivered. We rely on agencies like many of you around the table to help us identify women in our community who can utilize the services that we have. They refer them to us so we believe we’re helping to take that lift out of your program and not worry about how they’re going to get professionally outfitted and leave that expertise to us. Our sole purpose is to serve those other agencies.
How generous are Nevadan’s?
SHEA: This is, 100 percent, one of the most generous communities in the country. Sometimes we have to get back to the basics, which is what we’re all really good at. It’s getting people to give us their time. If you can get people to buy in with their time, there’s something really beautiful that happens when you’re putting it right in their hands and their face. They’re sitting there thinking about their son that goes to private school and has all of these wonderful things at their fingertips. People like the tangible. We have to make it real and make them understand that this is our issue as a community. Your time is the most precious gift you can give.
CARILLO: We’re known as the entertainment capital. The generosity for us is, every time we have events, there’s a lineup of entertainers that want to get involved with us. As we get closer to the event, we have a list of people who can’t make it in anymore because they didn’t respond in time. What that says to us is, however they perceive it, they want to donate part of the number they perform at Caesars or any of those hotels. That generosity, often times, is not talked about. The funds are very welcome and the community in general is very generous.
BROWN: We have the Magical Forest and that’s 7,000 volunteers. We do it every night [during the holidays] and there’s 120 volunteers every night. It’s amazing. We do 30,000 man hours, all volunteers, to help decorate that forest. This community is amazing.
ROBERTS: It’s a stewardship model of time, talents and treasure. Clearly, we couldn’t do what we do at Catholic Charities without volunteers. We find, with the millennial generation especially, that’s the way to reach them because they want to be able to touch and see and feel where they’re going to spend their time. By being able to get close to those that are in such great need, I think the gift that we all get from the work that we do is, we are enriched much more than what we give. Others that come and volunteer get educated, then they get committed, then they become aware of the needs and find where and what they’re going to do to plug in. The volunteer-stewardship model is so powerful. That’s the education piece that will eventually help people discern where they may or may not donate. The volunteer component is so important. It keeps our margins down.
What is the outlook for non profits going into 2017?
BROWN: We don’t know what the laws and what the rules are going to be. We have some real issues with the Department of Health and Human Services right now. We’re trying to build a beautiful facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and have had nothing but trouble with the federal government on that. We’re just working through those issues. Hopefully with the new administration, something will come out of that and we’ll have some opportunities to make some change.
BURTON: For your readers, I would say if you’re not motivated by compassion, at least be motivated by economic self-interest. It is good for you and all of us when we take care of the least and make sure that they have hope that life is going to be better and they actually have an opportunity and an option to improve their lives. It behooves all of us in these times to pull together because we need each other now more than ever.