Give to Live, to Love
May 06, 2013 07:02PM
● By Anonymous
With so many organizations aimed at aiding all sorts of diverse populations and community needs, sorting through the options one might support can be challenging. The hungry and poor, who we think of first especially in rough times, have been hit hard. Since 2007, poverty has increased in Anne Arundel County by 46 percent, while funding for nonprofits helping them has plummeted from $4.9 million to less than $1 million today.
Health and housing, education and equal rights—there’s so many worthy pursuits out there. Helping reach out to the region’s needs, while accommodating your interests, resources, and schedule becomes easier with the help of the Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County (which was the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 nonprofit of the year), the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (one of the largest funders of nonprofit organizations in the county, making annual grants of $800,000-plus), and Anne Arundel Cares (a unique fundraising website that has already raised more than $40,000 disbursed to local charities since its launch in September).
“The withdrawal of federal funding has led to less state and local funding for nonprofits while needs have grown and private funding has failed to fi ll the gap,” notes Fay Mauro, executive director of the Volunteer Center. Her words are supported by “Poverty Amidst Plenty IV: Surviving the Economic Downturn,” the latest of biennial reports produced by the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, which show demand for services rose last year. “More County residents are now hungry, have unmet health care needs, underwater mortgages, and face other challenges in trying to remain self-sufficient,” says Dr. Pamela M. Brown, who researched and compiled it.
“I know of a Harvard graduate with decades of high-level work experience who has been out of work for three years and is now dependent upon food banks,” says Joanna Conti, a 2010 county executive candidate who created Anne Arundel Cares after hearing Mauro say at a breakfast club she felt the biggest need for nonprofits is professional marketing help, as many have had to cut staff. People are struggling, but so are the nonprofits that serve them. And there’s often a lot more going on than meets the eye. Rita Fullem spent the majority of her life working as an executive for nonprofits or educational foundations. When she was laid off and went through a divorce, she became the executive director for Changing Focus (CF), a 501c3 organization supporting those going through bereavement (Healing Journey), divorce (Single Again), or wanting better relationships (MOHR). She says personnel and insurance tend to be the biggest expenses for nonprofits. Ninety-two percent of CF’s budget goes to employing four licensed clinical therapists for all its weekly meetings, so even with locations and utilities donated, revenue has to be monitored closely and getting a grant is extremely challenging.
As she explains, to get listed with the combined Federal Campaign or United Way, an audit is needed for eligibility. But many nonprofits are too small to be audited, according to the IRS. “It’s very expensive to do and needs to be done by an outside fi rm. You don’t have enough money to be able to get more money,” she says. “It’s a Catch-22.”
For the fortunate ones who have the means, giving money is still the easiest way to be altruistic. But more than ever, making sure one’s money does the most good it can is important. The charitable organizations division of the secretary of state’s office annually registers, regulates, and renews charities in Maryland.
You can get basic information on any organization registered through its website. But if you want to get into how well funds are utilized and for what, Fullem suggests GuideStar.com, which displays 1099s and 990s on almost two million recognized nonprofits—even analyzing them for you.
TIME AND TALENT
Whereas the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and Anne Arundel Cares both focus on connecting monetary donors with local nonprofits, the Volunteer Center is a matchmaking service made in heaven for volunteers. The number served by the center rose 26 percent, from 3,318 in 2011 to 4,467 in 2012. Many want to gain new skills and stay active. Mauro says 72 percent are female and 57 percent are seeking one-time, group, or occasional activities doing hands-on work, while 30 percent want to use specific skills.
MLK, Jr. also said, “Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.” To do that, one needs to wade through all the possibilities.
In 2011, The Maryland Association of Nonprofits shows nearly 1,700 501c3s in AACO alone. The American Giving Awards televised in December broke them into Education/Mentors, Champions of Health, Community Builders, Heroes & Leaders, and Youth Developers, but that’s just one way. The Center breaks down opportunities through numerous filters: 14 interest categories, 18 skill sets, and a dozen activity types. If only dating services worked so well.
Mauro cautions would-be volunteers that their motivations should be more than altruism, suggesting they consider what they hope to achieve from the work they’ll be doing. “That means how you can benefit the organization and yourself,” she says. “The ‘what’s in it for me’ is important to keep you coming back.” While Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words emphasize the need for volunteers, it is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s words focusing on their impact that I like best. “One man can make a difference, and every man should try.”
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Contributing Writer Kevin Kohler became Treasurer of Knights of Columbus Council #11552 and Vice President of Brookside Bonsai Society earlier this year.