Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hope rising among non-profit chiefs

The heads of five non-profits that dispense human services in Charlotte met this morning with members of several news outlets to discuss budget shortfalls and what we in the media can do to help.

Some of the charity chiefs were giddy over a meeting Tuesday night where some of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's top leaders declared a need for a comprehensive battle plan to deliver human services at a time when the economy continues to struggle and help for charities continues to shrink.

The meeting was hastily called. As my colleague Eric Frazier reported:

"County leaders were prompted in part last week when Carol Hardison, head of Crisis Assistance Ministry, noted that Charlotte has drafted strategic plans for the arts and cultural programs, but not human services.

"Several commissioners attended that meeting, and say they want to explore the idea as a potential answer to the city's charity crisis.

"The local nonprofit sector is reeling from the recession, the banking crisis and a scandal-tinged United Way campaign that brought in $15 million less than the preceding year. The Arts and Science Council's campaign suffered a 37-percent plunge in donations.

"Human services charities supported by the United Way have seen their United Way money cut by 40 percent or more, even as more residents lose homes and jobs, and turn to charities for help."

Before the meeting, commission chairwoman Jennifer Roberts invited city council and school board members, as well as the mayors of the county's municipalities. Not all could attend, so Roberts said a follow-up meeting will take place soon -- with all parties invited once again -- to begin discussing how such a battle plan would be shaped and set deadlines.

Roberts said the plan needs to be completed by budget season next year so governments can plan.

Maria Hanlin, executive director of Mecklenburg Ministries, saw this as a sign of the political will rising to find solutions.

"When's the last time we've had county commissioners, city council members and school board members meet in the same room?" she asked. "It sure looks like we have the political will behind it. It's going to take political will, as well as the community's non-profits and corporate will to move a plan forward.

"But political will is essential."


Anonymous said...

I wish all of these people were also focused on finding and developing Charlotte's next source of jobs. I think this would help all of us.

I contribute $400-500/year to our local food pantries so while modest, I am not a Scrooge. However, it does strike me as odd that we're arguing over allocation of shrinking resouces rather than arguing over how to increase our resources.