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Tough time for charity

During a panel discussion on philanthropy, attendees were given recommendations on how non profits can fight shrinking resources

During a panel discussion on philanthropy, attendees were given recommendations on how non profits can fight shrinking resources

November 13, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - In these tough economic times, many corporations have cut back on their charitable giving, said Betsy Day, president of the Western Maryland chapter of the Association of Fund-raising Professionals.

Day led a panel discussion Tuesday on how to reverse that trend.

Washington County's 537 nonprofits are competing for dollars in an increasingly difficult environment, Day told about 50 people who attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at the Four Points Sheraton in Hagerstown.

"These are very difficult times," she said.

Nonprofits face shrinking resources, a drop in regular volunteers, difficulty keeping staff and an increasing emphasis on quantitative results.

Nonprofits need to show companies how they can benefit from donating to charity, Day said.

For one thing, a community with thriving charities is more attractive to potential businesses, she said.

Also, companies that encourage philanthropy have better employee satisfaction, increased productivity and lower turnover, Day said.

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Charitable giving is good for business, she said.

Day recently talked to a woman who wanted to set up a charitable trust at a certain bank because the bank sponsored an annual arts festival.

A group of panelists also offered suggestions to nonprofits.

Charities should expect even closer scrutiny of how they spend their money, said Julie Barr-Strasburg, executive director of the American Red Cross in Hagerstown.

That means they should make sure their Internal Revenue Service forms are available on request, that their board meets regularly and minutes are on file, she said.

Lieba Cohen of the Hagerstown Community College Foundation urged nonprofits to consider programs such as challenge grants, through which corporations offer to match individual donations.

Brad Sell, executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County, said not to overlook your best donors when recruiting board members.

Tony Dahbura of Hub Labels Inc. gave the business perspective.

Dahbura said his parents, who founded the Hagerstown-area business 25 years ago, started a tradition of charitable giving that continues today to the tune of about $50,000 a year.

Dahbura said requests for donations should be in writing and should emphasize how the money will help people in the community.

It's also helpful to give businesses the option of donating less money or donating their services instead, he said.

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