Economic woes?

Groups are meeting in Nasvhille’s GLBT cultural center, OutCentral, and two tenants are set to rent office space there despite the fact that the building isn’t completely finished.

Jim Hawk, executive director of OutCentral, said buildout on the space was originally set to be completed in the fall of 2007. Now, nearly a year past the completion date, the group still needs $21,496 to complete construction and see a finished product, Hawk said.

The fledgling economy is partly to blame for the delay in the center’s grand opening, he said.

“Giving is down and many nonprofits are experiencing layoffs and cutbacks in services,” Hawk said. “We experienced some of our worse months just prior to the Pride celebration (in June).”

Many fundraising experts say nonprofits who depend on small donations of $100 to $300 from individual donors are the first to feel the effect when the economy takes a turn for the worst.

“People are not giving as much as they might have earlier, but we are receiving gifts and we are nearing the end of construction,” Hawk said.

Research from Indiana University shows that the economy affects different charities in different ways. In past recessions, civil rights and community improvement groups were among the first to notice donor lag. Religious and educational groups tend not to be heavily effected.

Hawk said OutCentral saw charitable giving bounce back after group members capitalized on networking opportunities during Nashville's Pride festival. Donations continue to trickle in, he said.

Chris Sanders, president of the TEP, said it is difficult to gauge the economy’s effect on individual giving to the group at this time because giving usually slows once the legislative session has ended. Many nonprofits see a lull in donations during the summer as people are vacationing and deviating from their normal routine.

“Summer is traditionally a slow time for individual donations,” Sanders said. “I think where we will see the negative impact is in the fall when donations usually start picking up again,” Sanders said.

That’s why the Center for Nonprofit Management (CNM) included a training session called "Recession-Proofing Your Nonprofit" as part of its many programs in July.  Nearly 45 CEO's from area nonprofit groups attended the session.

Corinne Ciocia, CNM's marketing and communications manager, said such workshops are intended to help nonprofit groups to battle a lag in funding and prepare for a potentially worsening economic future.

The CNM serves a source for nonprofits in the community answering a wide variety of questions for group leaders and community members, Ciocia said. She said CNM has received few phone calls from nonprofits regarding the economy or low donations so far.

“The struggle of nonprofits is a national issue more than locally,” Ciocia said.

Ciocia said the workshops are a proactive approach to dealing with problems that may arise if the economy doesn’t turn around soon.

“The economy is going to impact individual giving and we’re trying to be a resource for these groups now,” Ciocia said.

While groups driven by modest donations might be seeing smaller or fewer donations, other groups have yet to notice any donation lag – and don’t expect to.

The Brooks Fund, which was created in 1995 by the Community Foundation to encourage the inclusion, acceptance and recognition of Middle Tennessee's lesbian and gay citizens, raises the majority of its funding through fundraisers such as its Wanderlust Travel Raffle and has seen an increase in donations this year.

Brooks Fund Coordinator Michael McDaniel said the group raised just less than $35,000 dollars with the travel raffle this year, up from the $33,000 raised last year.

“We look at hosting affordable events that people can contribute to and not empty their pockets,” McDaniel said. “A lot of people realize there’s a need for nonprofits who serve in the area and it really shows in the success of what we’ve done in the travel raffle.”

He said the fundraiser would likely have raised even more money this year had it not been for a couple of glitches in planning.

“We have a cascade of dedicated supporters,” McDaniel said, noting the many donations the group receives in memorial. He said there has not been a significant drop in individual donations either.

Because the group measures gifts received by quarter, McDaniel said it is difficult to tell if the Brook’s Fund will notice a tightening of donor purse strings at the year’s end, but for now, he isn’t worried.

“At this point we just haven’t seen a huge impact,” McDaniel said. “I don’t expect that we will.”

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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