Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 28, 2013

Donations level off after upswing

TRAVERSE CITY — Charitable giving fell by nearly 18 percent when the 2008 financial meltdown caused the U.S. economy to tumble.

Those who raise money for northern Michigan nonprofit agencies said they've been working ever since to regain momentum, and noted they've witnessed a steady increases in giving for the past five years, followed by a plateau as the economy recovers.

"We have seen a leveling off in donations, which seems to be a trend in the area,” said Father Fred Foundation Executive Director Rosemary Hagan. “In general and nationally, when times are tough, donations to charities like ours goes up … but when there’s an upturn, donations tend to move back to the humanities."

Father Fred serves 62,000 families annually, and last year provided more than $1 million in food assistance alone. Father Fred has a $2.8 million annual budget, including $1.3 million received as in-kind donations, such as those received during food drives.

Contributions and grants account for 90 percent of annual revenue. The organization receives no federal or state funding and is reliant on giving from individuals, businesses and private foundations, as well as its 125 volunteers to deliver services.

Hagan said Father Fred’s donations reached an all-time high in 2010, followed by modest increases in 2011 and 2012. Since then, she said, most donations are holding steady.

It’s too early to see 2013 trends at United Way of Northwest Michigan, since its major campaign just began, although workplace campaigns are noting higher participation, according to fund development director Michelle Krumm. She said the trend during the preceding two years remained level in number of donors and dollars raised.

“It’s been steady, yet the need is so much more,” she said, adding that donations directly impact grants given back to community agencies.

In 2012, United Way had $420,000 to give but received $900,000 in requests. The agency raised $740,000 last year for grants to agencies and its Volunteer Center.

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