Only about a month ago, Inter-Faith Ministries was talking, sadly, about closing its Inter-Faith Inn, a shelter near downtown Wichita that has served homeless people since 1985.
No one at the nonprofit wanted that to happen, executive director Anne Corriston said.
But the group’s fiscal year, which began July 1, didn’t get off to an amazing start. “Miraculous contributions from unexpected places” weren’t coming in like they had the past two years.
Across the Wichita area, nonprofits are feeling the squeeze.
Donor fatigue, a less-than-robust economy and the loss of thousands of aviation jobs are adding up to less money in charity coffers.
The United Way of the Plains just wrapped up its annual fundraising campaign, and president and CEO Pat Hanrahan said it was the group’s toughest.
The United Way raised a little more than its goal of $15.1 million, but it had to hit up some donors a second time to make that happen. Last year, the United Way’s goal was $15.4 million, and it raised just a little more than $15.6 million.
This year “was a tougher campaign than even in the hard recession years in 2008 and 2009. The Wichita economy has just not rebounded, and it’s telling, it’s wearing,” Hanrahan said.
“A lot of people have continued to give, and they’ve filled in a little bit of the gaps, but I think there’s some donor fatigue out there.
“I think a lot of the agencies going into this Christmas season are probably concerned in terms of giving.”
‘Heart for caring’
When things were looking grim for the Inter-Faith Inn, the board got together and talked hard about the bottom line.
Operating the shelter, which is Inter-Faith’s biggest project to help homeless people year-round, costs about $200,000 a year.
Closing it “wasn’t a great option, but it was one that could save a lot of money,” Corriston said.
A $50,000 donation from a Wichita couple may save the day. The donors have challenged the community to contribute another $50,000 by June 30.
“If that happens, we can certainly keep it open for another year. That puts us in a good position for a strategic plan in January with the board,” Corriston said.
Inter-Faith Ministries gets about $20,000 in grants for the inn, which has room for about 50 people. The rest of the money comes from the public.
“It relies a lot on charitable funding from the community,” Corriston said. “When our donations are down, we’ve got to do something. Bake sales probably aren’t going to cut it.
“This gives us some breathing room and some time to figure out a longer-term solution. We really want to get ourselves on solid footing. We can’t keep going in a deficit direction. The federal government can, but we can’t.”
Inter-Faith Ministries also runs Operation Holiday, an assistance program for low-income families, many of whom are working but still struggling. Operation Holiday — in its 54th year — provides food, winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves and blankets and works with the U.S. Marine Corps to collect toys.
“We know that from folks that we talk to, it can mean the difference between having gifts for their children and a holiday meal and not,” Corriston said.
On top of a lagging economy, charities often are looking to the same people for help.
“It’s my sense that our economy in Wichita hasn’t rebounded at the level of the rest of the country,” Corriston said. “We lost so many jobs in 2008 and 2009, and they just haven’t all been replaced.”
People in Wichita care, she said.
“Their heart for caring hasn’t gone away, but maybe for some, their ability to write a check has diminished,” she said.
ICT S.O.S., a group focused on preventing human trafficking, just recently acquired nonprofit status.
Although the group has been around for a few years, working as a liaison between groups that serve trafficking victims and volunteers who want to help, it is now trying to raise its own money.
“How do we start to get funding?” founder Jennifer White asked.
“Our big push is our education program. We have a curriculum for middle and high school students. How do we get funding to keep this an ongoing thing so we can keep providing it for students and youth groups?”
The education program talks to youth about human trafficking, healthy and unhealthy relationships, the glamorization of pimp culture and messages conveyed through the media and music.
White hopes to expand the program and offer it to more places.
Although the idea of ICT S.O.S. being its own nonprofit is daunting, it’s also exciting, White said.
Maj. Glen Caddy, city commander of the Salvation Army in Wichita, said donations there the past year have been slightly under budget.
“We’ve had a slow start compared with last year,” he said. “Some of it I think is because there’s a general sense that the economy is improving, but it’s not improving for everyone.”
The Salvation Army’s Mission of Hope holiday campaign, which started Oct. 1, set out to raise $1.75 million by the end of January. That campaign, the group’s single largest fundraiser, covers holiday giving and funds ongoing services such as emergency social services, homeless services, youth residential services and foster care.
A shorter holiday shopping season also could affect the Salvation Army’s kettle campaign where bell ringers set up in front of businesses and take donations from the public directly.
Caddy said the Salvation Army has been trying to cut administrative costs to keep programs going.
“We aren’t at that level yet,” Caddy said of cutting back services.
Hanrahan said he hopes next year will be better for the Wichita economy, especially in the aviation sector.
“What we desperately need in this town is more good-paying jobs,” he said. “If we had a lot more jobs in this community, charity would take care of itself.”