Red Deer charities are holding their own

A new survey by the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) indicates most of the province’s nonprofits and charities are weathering the current economic downturn, but some are struggling to survive. But when it comes to charities and nonprofits in Red Deer the picture is more optimistic.

Fred Scaife, executive director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says, “Things are okay here for two reasons: our donors are committed to us and, for a long time, we haven’t had an increase in the numbers of people coming through our door.

“There were times when we were playing catch-up, the bad economy did drive our numbers up, but our donors realized that … whoa …. they really need our help. We lost a few donors, but the base came through and those who continued to give, gave more,” he said.

“Also, our volunteers came through like troopers. Sometimes their workload doubled or tripled but we never closed our door. It would have been catastrophic if that happened, but we came through okay. I’m really optimistic (that the economy is getting better) and it seems that more people are getting jobs and finding a place to live.”

Lois Hanson, executive director of the Crisis Centre – Sexual Assault Services, says, “We make do with what we have. We haven’t seen an increase in donations and demand for our services continues to increase. We don’t get a lot of private donations and they certainly haven’t increased, however our regular funding hasn’t gone down. But with the economic downturn we’ve seen more competition for funding. Everyone is watching their dollars and companies think twice about where their money goes.”

“We did have a bit of a downturn,” says Rob Elliot, executive director of the nonprofit Red Deer Child Care. “People did lose their jobs and so could stay at home and take care of their children.

“Our day cares were affected. However, things leveled out in February or so and now our numbers seem to be increasing. So it did have an effect as we depend on fees paid by parents.”

Katherine van Kooy, president and CEO of the CCVO, says, “Thirty-two per cent of organizations reported their financial situations had worsened over the past year compared to only 18 per cent reporting improved financial circumstances.

“Even with stable revenues, increased demand for programs and services coupled with higher operating costs leave many organizations in a revenue crunch.”

The CCVO surveyed nearly 600 organizations across the province and reported that there is little evidence yet of economic recovery for charities and non-profits.

Eighty-four per cent reported they are still dealing with the consequences of the downturn on the clients and communities they serve.

“Interestingly, many survey respondents were more confident in the recovery of the Alberta economy than in the financial outlook of their own organizations,” says van Kooy.

This is the third provincial economic climate survey by the CCVO. Out of 596 respondents to the May 2010 survey, 35% were from Calgary, 32% from Edmonton and 33% from smaller centres and rural Alberta.

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