Nonprofits on cuts: 'The trap door has just been sprung'

Nonprofits on cuts: 'The trap door has just been sprung' »Play Video

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- As the nation climbs into a post-recession environment, those in the world of nonprofit say they’re just starting to feel the brunt of the downturn.

“For the first two years of the recession there was actually more public funds in some very bizarre places,” said Terry McDonald of St. Vincent de Paul. “We had the stimulus money but we’ve seen a lot more of that state money dry up and a lot of the federal money dry up in the last year. Really the trap door has just been sprung.”

McDonald said local nonprofits have struggled particularly hard in the past six months. He said state and county budget cuts are hitting and will continue to hit nonprofits hard.

“We’re being asked to do more with less,” said McDonald. “Local nonprofits are working together to find creative ways to cope with the cuts. Some places curtail and other places just have to adapt to a different model.”

Cuts at the state and county level are not the end of the problem for many nonprofits – nonprofit organizers said federal cuts also are a concern.

The Republican controlled House of Representatives passed major spending cuts Saturday defying a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

Representatives sliced out $61 billion from federal programs including domestic programs among foreign aid, money for schools, nutrition programs, environmental protection and housing subsidies.

The bill now heads to the Senate where Democrats say the cuts will not be so deep.

In Oregon and Lane County McDonald said that means organizations are stretching every dollar to cover as much as possible.

St. Vincent de Paul relies on public money for about 5 percent of its operating budget. Other funds are generated through their retail stores and donations, but McDonald said many other nonprofits across Oregon rely on public funding for 50 to 100 percent of their budgets.

According to Lane County records, the county has 136 registered not-for-profit organizations.

The Nonprofit Association of Oregon (NAO) has recently undertaken efforts to bring nonprofits together to discuss the challenges they face in a post-recession environment and to identify potential solutions.

In December NAO kicked off a series of town halls in Eugene which drew several organizations to discuss common challenges.

Additional town halls are scheduled for April 27 in Bend and May 18 in Medford.

Made Marcoe volunteers with Egan Warming Centers in Eugene. Marcoe said he’s glad the conversation is started but he’s still concerned for the year ahead.

“This coming year it looks like we’re going to have to do some quick thinking and some fast gathering,” said Marcoe. “These services are just too important. Too many people can slip through the cracks.”