At a time when more people need assistance, the organizations whose mission is to help are struggling as well.
The struggling economy has affected everyone, including local nonprofits, which are reporting a decrease in revenue, staff cuts and other problems. But nonprofit administrators say they are doing everything they can to maintain their mission to help those in their communities.
When Mizpah Inland Human Services Inc. in Hamilton Township lost about $170,000 in state funding last year, it was forced to close the Alfred R. Lundy Sr. Community Center, because it had no more money to operate it.
Kim Melton, the center’s new executive director, said the closing lasted three months, until her agency received funds from the Sykes Foundation in Vineland and the United Way to cover utility costs. The center reopened in December but operates with volunteers instead of the eight full-time and four part-time employees who were laid off. This has made it harder to offer activities such as summer camp, after-school and teen youth programs, and a family success program, but Melton said they have been able to do it. The center also provides a food pantry and helps people find jobs and pay utilities.
“We feel great about (reopening),” she said. “We didn’t want it to close. People really need these services.”
Linda Czipo, executive director of the Center for Non Profit Corporations in North Brunswick, Middlesex County, said nonprofits are reporting reductions in funding and have had to make choices as to how to survive and provide services to the public.
In March, the organization surveyed 249 nonprofits in the state. Seventy-three percent of the responders said the demand from the community increased in 2011, and 40 percent said their expenses surpassed the revenue they generated during the year. For this year, 61 percent of the organizations expected their total expenses to increase, but only 39 percent expected their funding to increase.
The nonprofits have reacted in ways including cutting services, freezing wages and eliminating positions, Czipo said. They are working to operate more efficiently, use more volunteers and leverage fundraising money, she said.
They are also working more closely together, she said. Forty-seven percent of the organizations reported launching new partnerships or collaborations in 2011.
“Certainly, it’s been difficult. Nonprofits have to be creative in addressing these issues,” she said. “Governments have pulled back and expect nonprofits to pick up the slack.”
Some organizations have dipped into reserves or have taken out lines of credit, she said. The situation is expected to get worse as many nonprofits are providing assistance to victims of Hurricane Sandy, she said.
“You have people at the door,” she said. “Nonprofits do not want to turn people away, but you have these issues you are dealing with.”
Pastor Charles Wilkins, founder of Bethel Development Corp. in Millville, said donations from the public have decreased by about $25,000, or 50 percent, from last year. The organization provides meals and other social services. Wilkins said it has made changes, but continues to help residents.
Bethel is providing about 3,000 meals a month, almost double what it served a few years ago, Wilkins said.
“Everything with the economy that makes it harder to run the soup kitchen are also the reasons why we need a soup kitchen,” he said.
Wilkins said his organization has made a commitment not to reduce meals. It has made reductions in other ways. Last year before Thanksgiving, Bethel donated 350 turkeys to the public, but this year it may give out only 100, he said.
The difficult situation for nonprofits has not stopped people from wanting to help out. Czipo said her office receives calls every day from people interested in starting nonprofits of their own.
“It’s not surprising. The problems in the community are so pervasive,” she said. “Many people see that and want to do something to create a solution.”
Czipo said she talks to people about working with existing groups instead of starting new ones that would compete for the same funds.
“Government, nonprofits and businesses — it’s a partnership,” she said. “If we will solve these problems, we need to do it together. Investments in nonprofits will provide services people need.”
Douglas Jewell founded the Free Meal Center in 2010 in Middle Township to be the first-ever soup kitchen in Cape May County, but the group has yet to operate. It could not raise enough money.
Jewell said he recently received a commitment from a donor for money to buy and refurbish 2.4 acres on Route 9 in the Burleigh section of the township. Jewell, who declined to identify the benefactor or the amount of money, said it will take four months from the time the money is received to open the center’s doors and start serving meals.
“We never anticipated it would be this long. When the benefactor came along and helped us, it changed everything,” he said. “It has taken a long time, but it’s well worth the wait.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow @landaupressofac on Twitter