It’s a mechanism that mortgage giant Fannie Mae created last year for its annual Help the Homeless walk that allows supporters to contribute funds as a “walker” online, without really breaking a sweat. Last year’s walk raised $6.5 million for 118 nonprofits in the region — $300,000 of which went to N Street Village.
Nonprofits have had to become ever more creative as the economic slowdown lingers — and their work is only just beginning. Two of the region’s largest philanthropic organizations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced plans to phase out their charitable giving. Corporations are becoming much more selective in their philanthropy. And foundation budgets remain largely stagnant — they are handing out fewer grants — amid fears of continued budget cuts from the federal government.
As a result, Washington area charities are scrambling for new ways to raise money.
For instance, Columbia-based Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults has narrowed its operation from national to local to capitalize on the growing trend of corporations shifting their giving to causes in their own backyards. To reach a new donor pool, Capital Partners for Education in the District expanded its mission from working with private schools exclusively to include working with charter schools, which are popular in the city. Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast Washington, which experienced a 20 percent drop in corporate giving, is aggressively pursuing individual gifts, particularly large ones.
And N Street Village, in Northwest, is preparing for Fannie Mae’s possible pullout from the walk by making plans to run its own version next year. Part of those preparations involve using YouTube and other social media to recruit participants and build a database of names to stay in touch with.
“We’re trying to be as creative as we can to increase the number of walkers,” said Stuart Allen, N Street Village’s associate director of development. By reaching out now, “it won’t feel that shocking for people who have already supported us through virtual walking.”
A recent survey by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement illustrates the financial turmoil roiling Washington area charities: More than half that responded are seeing demand rise for their services, with nearly half of those grappling with a 10 to 50 percent drop in revenue. Nearly 60 percent said they have responded to the funding gaps by cutting salaries or staff.
Many were forced to either shut down, suspend operations, shrink, merge or restructure just to break even.
This week local nonprofits are signing up for an online 24-hour fundraising event, Give to the Max — hosted by fundraising site Razoo— that will call on the region to give to area charities.