With the Great Recession having ended almost three years ago and corporate profits bouncing back, the nonprofit sector also is seeing a recovery, albeit a modest one.
More than half of the region’s nonprofits in a recent survey said their donors are committed to maintaining or increasing their donations this year.
The data, gathered by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement in Washington, D.C., is the first positive news from the nonprofit realm in three years, since the recession of 2007-09, said Glen O’Gilvie, the center’s CEO. The center represents 900 nonprofits in the greater Washington region.
“This is the start of something different,” O’Gilvie said. “It’s good to start a different conversation about the strength and capacity of nonprofits to serve the people and communities in a more robust way.”
Businesses, too, say they either level-funded or boosted their charitable giving last year.
Still, some nonprofits say they have yet to see much of an uptick.
“I’d like to be more optimistic, but we’re just not seeing that from the numbers,” said Mary Kucharski, executive director of Christmas in April, which plans to renovate 84 homes for elderly and disabled residents on April 28.
Of the 1,000 requests for skilled workers and volunteers Kucharski sent out to companies, she has received only 30 responses, she said.
She singled out Mona Electric Group in Clinton for continuing to help her nonprofit diligently through its donations of office space, supplies, electrical work and volunteer service hours.
“Everything’s gone up in price,” Kucharski said, adding that Christmas in April has increased its fundraising efforts this year to combat the drop in support. The organization also is letting businesses adopt 28 homes to manage all the work for themselves. Mona has one of these.
Mona Electric was not available for comment.
Anticipating a rebound
During the last three years, corporate giving has dropped 5 percent to 10 percent, with the biggest slide in 2010, said Bill Hanbury, president and CEO for United Way of the National Capital Area. The United Way collects monetary donations to distribute to charitable organizations focusing on education, financial stability and health.
This year, the United Way chapter awarded 52 grants totaling $219,653 to 46 organizations in Prince George’s County and 53 grants totalling $277,498 to 43 organizations in Montgomery County.
Hanbury says his group expects an increase of 5 percent to 10 percent in donations this year, as people become more confident in the economy.
While federal contractors, including technology-based companies, are holding back more as the federal budget tightens, legacy companies such as UPS, which has a processing center in Landover, continue to maintain their donation levels, Hanbury said.
United Way also has increased its outreach efforts among small and mid-sized businesses, bringing in more than 25 new donors this year, said Elliot Gruber, senior vice president of the local United Way.
Hanbury said organizations such as his are trying to convince young businesses that they have an obligation to give back to the community, especially when some of them “have a lot of bounty.”
“This is incredibly important money,” Hanbury said, referring to it as “but for” money — as in, “But for this funding, a family would not have been able to stay in a shelter.”
Nonprofits still seeing less
But United Way recipients, such as the Prince George’s Child Resource Center in Largo and Adelphi, say they are seeing less money from United Way than last year.
The center’s grant from United Way fell to $4,600 in 2012 from $11,500 in 2011, said Jennifer Hoffman, deputy director for the center. She said Prince George’s nonprofits averaged less than $4,000 each from the grants.
A trick to bolstering this funding is proving an organization’s stability, she said. Her agency has seen donations rise overall after it spent time improving its infrastructure and board.
“It’s always about relationships. There’s very few companies that donate without them knowing someone on our board,” Hoffman said.
The center says it supports 1,500 families and 3,500 child care programs.
Arleen Joell, executive director of the Community Advocates for Family & Youth in Capitol Heights, said receiving funding through the United Way also lends legitimacy to nonprofits. The organization, which provides victim services such as case management and court preparation, received $2,200 from the United Way this year, but Joell said Community Advocates has received fewer donor responses than last year.
While Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg has seen a decrease in corporate donations since the recession set in, donations have remained fairly consistent this year, development director Natalie Corbin said in an email. The nonprofit provides food to about 3,300 families a month at 14 locations in Montgomery County, according to its website.
“If businesses were not in a position to donate dollars, they often modified their support to hold food drives or bring in groups of volunteers,” she said.
Devoting dollars to a cause
Meanwhile, Maryland businesses have taken to focusing on key causes.
Verizon Wireless’ Capital Region division in Laurel focuses on domestic violence and awarded $175,000 to various projects in 2011, said spokeswoman Melanie Ortel.
The projects included the purchase of forensic interview equipment, a client needs fund in Benson and offsetting protective order costs for the Woman’s Law Center of Maryland. The contribution was up $30,000 from 2010, which was down from $155,000 in 2009.
Over the years, Verizon has donated phones and minutes to domestic violence victims, money for date violence prevention services at local universities, money to connect military members with relatives on holidays at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and more than $178,000 for the Montgomery County Family Justice Center, according to Ortel.
Sodexo, a Gaithersburg provider of food and facilities management services, targets U.S. hunger through its Sodexo Foundation. The foundation partnered with Share Our Strength and Youth Service America in 2011 and donated $2.5 million in 138 grants in 2010, up from $1.7 million for 125 grants in 2009, according to foundation information.
Robert A. Stern, president of the foundation, said in an email that charitable giving is down slightly right now, but that “it’s a matter of timing.”
Grocers Giant Food and Safeway also choose hunger as their chief charitable cause, along with health and education. Giant Food, a division of Royal Ahold of the Netherlands, has its regional headquarters in Landover, while Safeway, a Pleasanton, Calif., chain, has its Eastern division headquarters in Lanham.
Giant donated $8.3 million and the equivalent of more than 21.4 million meals to the nonprofit community in 2011, said spokesman Jamie Miller. Specifically, Giant donated more than 1.4 million pounds of food to the Maryland Food Bank. This amount was on par with 2010 and 2009, he said.
Miller said the company expects to match or exceed that amount in 2012.
“Giving back to the communities we serve has been a big legacy of Giant. We’re a local, community-based business,” he said. “It’s a source of pride for us and differentiates us from our competitors.”
Safeway’s Eastern division contributed $11.3 million in cash and in-kind donations in 2011, said spokesman Craig Muckle. Safeway also introduced a new volunteerism effort, with its workers clocking 94,000 volunteer hours.
“It pays dividends for the community, since they see us out doing things,” Muckle said. “It’s more than just providing a service.”
He said Safeway plans to continue the effort in 2012.
The monetary donations, however, are down from $12.7 million in 2010 and $14.2 million in 2009. Muckle said some of the fluctuation is due to Safeway cutting back on bread donations, as stores try to reduce extra food. In-store charity campaigns also are going down, as Safeway’s eScrip program, which allows consumers to donate a portion of their spending to education, goes up, he said.
The ‘new normal’Nonprofits are adjusting to the “new normal” of the post-2008 reality, said Sally Patterson, interim president and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, which represents 25,000 organizations.
She said more organizations are realizing corporations are looking for branding opportunities and demonstrations of impact and return on investment. Businesses are no longer comfortable with making three-year or longer donation commitments, she said.
“Good partners are needed to come together and work with nonprofits,” Patterson said. “The nonprofit sector is a master of navigating change. We’re partnering better than we have in the past.”
Other corporate donations run the nonprofit gamut, from math to leukemia.
For example, MedImmune of Gaithersburg gave $2.1 million to charitable organizations in 2011, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math education, and expects to exceed that in 2012, according to spokeswoman Liz Huntley.
Hargrove in Lanham supports the Foundation Schools, Anne Arundel Medical Center and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, according to COO and President Carla Hargrove McGill. While corporate giving has dipped in recent years, Hargrove never stopped giving during the economic downturn and tried to support organizations more than before, she said.
Human Genome Sciences in Rockville concentrates its giving on organizations involved in improving health care learning and patient outcomes, according to spokeswoman Susannah Budington. Employees of HGS — which a year ago won regulatory approval to market the first lupus drug in more than 50 years — also participate in Walk for Lupus Now for the Lupus Foundation of America and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night.
Blu Water Day Spa in Bethesda selects one or two organizations to contribute to annually through its Hearts at Home efforts, according to founder and CEO Julie Nguyen. Nguyen also started Arches of Love in 2011 to raise awareness and money for women’s health programs. Blu Water also treated caregivers at Walter Reed to its spa services.