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Report: Donations down, but charities make more

Posted December 17, 2008

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— Charities licensed by the state collected almost $26 million less in the year ended in June than in the previous year, but they wound up with more money by cutting overhead costs, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall acknowledged the tough time nonprofit groups are having in the struggling economy as she released the Annual Report of Charitable Solicitation Licensing.

"We have to be honest about what this economy is doing to people's pocketbooks," Marshall said in a statement. "North Carolinians always want to help charitable causes, but people are having to tighten their purse strings now."

Fundraising campaigns conducted by paid solicitors generated $239.1 million from July 2007 through June, down from $265 million during the 2006-07 fiscal year, according to the report.

Still, the charities netted $142.9 million during the latest fiscal year, up from $133.9 million, because the professional fundraisers took a smaller portion of each donated dollar, the report shows. This year, 59.78 cents of every dollar raised went to the charitable organization, up from 50.54 cents a year ago.

"This year's percentage is the highest any of us ever recall seeing," Marshall said. "It may be that charitable organizations are learning to negotiate contracts with fundraisers that give them better guaranteed percentages."

Donations in 2009 could be down even more, she said, because economic troubles have escalated in recent months.

"Charities are going to have to become more efficient. I hope that they can keep it up," she said. "Just like households, just like state government, belt-tightening is needed everywhere in order for folks to survive."

Jill Staton Bullard, founder and president of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said the tough economic times don't change the mission for nonprofits.

"No matter how challenged we are, feeding our neighbor becomes just as important as feeding ourselves. Surely we're that good, and that is where we're placing our hopes," Bullard said.

The Secretary of State's Office licenses charities and nonprofit groups that use professional fundraising services, compensate their officers or raise at least $25,000. Charities affiliated with a religious or educational institution or volunteer fire department are exempt from state regulation.


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