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Dave Olson, Published December 25 2009

Local nonprofits see fewer donations

When it comes to charitable giving, some local nonprofits are seeing a slowdown as a result of the recession. But, they’re also finding reasons for optimism.

“We, like all other not-for-profits, are seeing some of the economic tightening. And yet – what I’ve found so heartening – we actually had more donors through September 2009 than we did through September 2008,” said Jean Anderson, director of development at Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Also encouraging, she said, was the development this year of a new way to promote donation matching. In the past, Anderson said, it was common for foundations to offer matching grants or funds that were donated if similar gifts come in.

This fall, nine families and individuals, along with three businesses, pooled together a little more than $83,000 that will be given to Hospice of the Red River Valley if a like amount is raised, Anderson said.

“The response has really been quite remarkable,” she said. “People just have a really warm spot for hospice and when they hear of this opportunity to see their dollars matched, they love that,” said Anderson, who added that hospice still needs to raise about $20,000 to meet the matching challenges.

Judy Lee, a state senator from West Fargo, was among those who pledged dollars to the pool for matching donations.

She said she is happy to give because of help her family received from hospice when her father died and also when her husband passed away.

“They provide just marvelous support services in a very compassionate and positive way for the families, as well as the individual who is ill,” Lee said.

Too often, Lee said, families wait too long before asking for hospice help, but she said she understands why that is.

“It seems like such a final decision,” she said, stressing, however, that people shouldn’t hesitate to seek assistance from hospice, which provides care in portions of 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota.

About 7 percent of the agency’s $21 million budget comes from philanthropy, and Anderson said the agency is at about 80 percent of its fundraising goal for 2009.

The situation is similar for the United Way of Cass-Clay, which has seen an “uphill climb” when it comes to fundraising this year, said Judy Green, United Way president.

“We have felt both ends of the spectrum,” Green said. “We have been blessed by companies and individuals who have increased their giving. At the same time, we’ve had a few individuals and businesses who have decreased, due to the economy.”

So far this year, United Way of Cass-Clay has raised more than $3.9 million, or about 80 percent of its goal for 2009.

Green held out hope the final days of the year will put them over the top.

She said the need is great, particularly in what she called the “safety net” services – food banks and homeless shelters.

“Our shelters are running at high numbers. They have been all year,” Green said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555