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A spirit that is not afraid

Nonprofit organizations gather to garner support

Countless nonprofits that provide for the needy organizations throughout Alabama are in need of some support themselves.

Amid today's devastating economic decline, the demand for assistance is up, but foundation revenues are down. And, with no promise of immediate relief, some nonprofits worry the suffering will only continue.

More than 250 people representing nonprofits all over the state met last Wednesday and Thursday at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham to discuss the recession.

The summit, called "Extreme Makeover," gave organizations advice on how to raise funds in order to survive the economic slump. It also provided organizations with steps to cope, adapt and continue to serve the community.

"We wanted to give the organizations some extra encouragement and options outside of the typical stream," said Molly McGregor, CEO of the Nonprofit Resource Center of Alabama, organizer of the summit.

The typical means of funding for nonprofits -- individuals, other foundations, corporations and the government - have all curtailed their giving.

Several presenters provided organizations with new potential revenue sources and steps on how to develop better relationships with preexisting sources.

Comparable to commercial businesses, when nonprofit income falls, costs must be cut. McGregor recently surveyed 70 nonprofits in the Auburn/Opelika area. Of the 70 organizations, 46 percent reduced programs, and 38 percent were forced to cut staff last year.

The survey also found that 40 percent of the organizations brought in significantly lower income compared to last year.

In addition, McGregor was a recent signatory on a declaration to the President and Congress asking that partnership between nonprofits and the government be reinvigorated.

The declaration outlined the growing increase of needs for service and assistance. It highlighted nonprofit contributions to economic recovery such as community development, unemployment training, youth education, counseling and cultural enrichment.

"Nonprofits are absolutely dedicated to their mission and do everything they can to serve those in need," McGregor said.

It also advocated President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a spending bill signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009, that includes federal tax cuts, expansions of unemployment benefits, education and healthcare spending and other social welfare provisions.

Chris Nunn, volunteer coordinator for Project Uplift, said the program receives all of its funds from local dollars and has had to govern the budget carefully in order to maintain operation.

The Lee County Youth Development Center, Inc., the United Way of Lee County and the cities of Auburn and Opelika all provide Project Uplift with funding.

"We are hopeful that we will continue to receive full funding; however, we do realize they are having to look at ways to ensure they are able to do the vital things for their cities and operate without having to phase out jobs for a lack of funds," Nunn said.

Project Uplift has more than 845 volunteers in the program and offers volunteer services to children throughout Lee County at no cost to their families. The main goals are to help children develop constructive lifestyles and help decrease the delinquency rate in the county.

Nunn said he worries there will be an increase in problematic behaviors within the community if organizations like Project Uplift cannot receive proper funding as result of the economic crisis.

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However, he also said he hopes those that can afford to support nonprofit organizations will continue to show support throughout these difficult times.

"We are grateful to those, who during these difficult times, realized that it would be easy to elect to not give to charities, but have chosen to care about the needs within our community," Nunn said.

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