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Posted: July 01, 2010

State of the state: nonprofits

Charities see increased need, fewer donations

By Allie Winter

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The economic crunch that has led to thousands of layoffs in Colorado has made it difficult for nonprofits to secure individual and corporate donations.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which provides such services as housing and health care to 15,000 homeless people in Colorado, has felt the pinch, said Jennifer Wilson, director of research development and marketing.

The struggle with fundraising comes as demand increases. The number of homeless people in Colorado has risen to 15,000, and about 44,000 people will experience homelessness at least one night this year, said B.J. Iancino, director of education and advocacy at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The organization depends on donations to make up 20 percent of a 
$32 million operating budget.

"Funding does not make up for that," Wilson said.

The state of Colorado cut nearly $3.5 million of the coalition's health-care funding, prompting the organization to close two of its housing facilities, enact a salary freeze for employees and close its Health Outreach Program, a mobile medical clinic.

"That was the hardest one," Wilson said. "(The mobile clinic) went around Denver to find homeless families and individuals and provided medical care at no charge. Half of those people will end up at the emergency room."

Denver Hospice, which is building 
a $16 million in-patient care center, 
relies heavily on community donations. Mike Pasquarella, vice president of development, said the hospice board opted to proceed despite the economic climate after meeting with nonprofit developer Dan Ritche, who said the hospice should expand. He also suggested that while raising money would be tough, the construction climate would never be as favorable.

"There's never really a great time to go out and ask the community for millions and millions of dollars," Pasquarella said. "But bouncing around from one leased facility to the next was not optimal for the next decade."

To pay for the new center, scheduled to open sometime between November 2010 and January 2011, Denver Hospice enrolled in bridge financing, a short-term loan for $12 million of the project's total cost. The hospice has five years to raise that money and had $4 million available in cash reserves.

"We wouldn't have proceeded if we weren't confident we could do so," Pasquarella said. "But it's not going to be a walk in the park."

No walk in the park, to say the least, as donations have decreased 15 percent.

Both the Denver Hospice and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless said they will increase fundraising efforts. CCH has been partnering with other charities such as the Delores Project and the Gathering Place to gain extra support. The Denver Hospice has created a volunteer fundraising committee.

The number of donors has not decreased, both nonprofits report, but individuals and corporations are giving less.

"People really care, even though they may not be able to give as much as they used to," Iancino said.
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