Nonprofits: Need up, giving down

The demand for nonprofit services is up. Donations are down.

But even so, four in five Wichita-area nonprofit groups reported in a recent survey that they are optimistic about their agencies' prospects as the year winds down.

"It says a lot about the dedication of people who work in these agencies," said Patrick J. Hanrahan, president of United Way of the Plains, which released the survey results Monday.

"Everyone knows what the news is. ... But one would hope there's maybe a little daylight peeking through."

United Way conducted the survey earlier this month as a follow-up to a similar study done in April. Its objective: to better understand the recession's impact on local social service agencies.

The survey focused on nonprofit agencies in Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey, Reno and Sumner counties.

Seventy-five percent of nonprofits responding to the survey said they had experienced an increased demand for services over the past six months.

Nearly two-thirds reported decreases in revenue when compared to the same time period in 2008. About 40 percent said revenue — including individual donations, corporate gifts and government funding — had fallen more than 10 percent.

About half of nonprofits responding to the survey said they don't expect to break even at year's end.

"That puts every nonprofit in this community in a squeeze, a vise," Hanrahan said.

"It's a message to the entire community ... that we all need to redouble our efforts to get through this."

Agencies reported several strategies for dealing with the economic pinch, including using reserves to cover current budget, reducing expenses, dedicating more staff time to fundraising, laying off staff and reducing staff hours.

United Way of the Plains launched its annual fundraising campaign last month, aiming to raise more than it ever has — $16.4 million.

Officials called the goal "aggressive" given thousands of recent layoffs at Wichita's aviation companies and other businesses, and a local unemployment rate of about 10 percent.

Still, Hanrahan is hopeful that people who are able to give to nonprofit groups will do so in record numbers this holiday season.

"This to me is an economic tornado, and the way we need to deal with it is the same way we deal with a tornado that takes out part of our community," he said.

"We need to recognize it as the disaster it is, and respond accordingly."