Donations to mid-Missouri charities above national average in 2010

Monday, July 11, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — Key nonprofit organizations in mid-Missouri have bucked national trends recently in charitable donations.

Nationally, charitable donations declined in 2008 and 2009, then rose an estimated 3.8 percent across the board in 2010, according to the recently released Giving USA report. Locally, however, many nonprofits brought in percentage increases higher than the national average.

And some local chapters outpaced parent organizations in percentage increases in recent years. Donations to Heart of Missouri United Way in Columbia, for example, were up 0.2 percent in 2007-'08, up 3.1 percent in 2008-'09 and up 6.7 percent in 2009-'10. But donations to the United Way as a whole were down 4.5 percent in 2007-'08 and down 4.3 percent in 2008-'09; annual results for 2009-'10 fundraising are currently unavailable.

David Holtgraewe, campaign director for Heart of Missouri United Way, said the depressed U.S. economy has reduced donations over the past few years. However, the chapter has benefited from donations from MU and major businesses in Boone County.

Heart of Missouri United Way has also walked a different path than that of its own organization, relying heavily on corporate donors as well as individuals. Nationally, the United Way puts a heavier emphasis on individual contributors.

"We've been fortunate the last two years," Holtgraewe said. "The university has done a great job. Major firms, 200 employees or more, have had strong results the last couple years."

Food bank sees more donations

The United Way is also a large contributor to other community organizations. The largest of these for Heart of Missouri United Way is the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. In 2009, 11 percent of all donations the food bank received came from the United Way. In 2010, the figure was 5 percent, according to 2009 and 2010 annual reports found on the food bank's website.

Holtgraewe said that allocations of United Way funding are requested by organizations and that determinations are based on need.

According to the food bank's annual reports, almost $1.8 million was raised in cash and in-kind donations (versus food donations) from fundraisers and charitable giving. This accounts for 63 percent of the food bank's cash revenue from that year. The remainder was from grants, the United Way and governmental funding. In 2010, the amount of cash raised from fundraisers rose to a little more than $1.9 million — a 7.5 percent increase in charitable donations.

"People in Missouri know the need," Director of Development Bobbie Kincade said. "With the economy the way it is, there's a lot of food that needs to leave the food bank."

Like the United Way, the food bank is considered a public-society benefit organization in the 2011 Giving USA report. This category rose a reported 6.2 percent nationally, placing both Heart of Missouri United Way (6.7 percent) and Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri (7.5 percent) above the increase in national average for charitable donations in 2010.

Slight increase for humane society

Unlike the food bank, the Central Missouri Humane Society receives no money from the United Way or from government funding. Instead, it is almost 100 percent funded by charitable donations.

Allison Brown, the shelter relations coordinator, said the amount of charitable donations raised by the Humane Society went from about $226,725 in 2009 to about $298,360 in 2010. This net gain of about $71,635 reflects a 31.6 percent increase, far surpassing the reported national average. The reported change for donations to environmental and animal organizations dropped by 0.7 percent, according to Giving USA.

Brown said that although numbers improved, they were probably lower in 2010 than what the humane society could have raised. She said public opinion of the financial state of the organization might have been adversely affected by a contest the humane society won that provided up to $1 million to renovate the facilities. That looked like a lot of money, Brown said, but it could not be used for operational expenses.

Brown doesn't think the economy played a huge role in donations to the humane society. Rather, the recession resulted in an increase in the number of animals the shelter had to care for as people became financially unable to support them. 

Disasters elsewhere affect local giving

Another factor that affects charitable donations for humanitarian efforts like the Red Cross are environmental disasters. Although the Capital Area Chapter of the Red Cross does not have final financial numbers from 2010 yet, because of a strict auditing system, chief executive officer Beth Bauer said she thinks they will be up from 2009 because of the response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010.

"Because of Haiti, donations across the country are up," Bauer said. "The economy has made it difficult for nonprofits to raise funds on a local level. But there is definitely a spike when there is a large disaster."

However, Bauer said that when donations are intended for a specific event, the money goes there and does not necessarily have an impact in the community in which the donation was made. Typically, donors making a donation for a specific disaster are then unable to give locally — they are financially unable to do both.

A recent example is in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado.

"Donors in mid-Missouri have been phenomenal," said Bauer, "but the money has been earmarked to Joplin. It is always done on intent. If the donor wants the money to go to Joplin, it goes to Joplin."

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