Hard-hit military charities pin hopes on CFC donationsBy Karen Jowers [email protected]
Military-related charities are feeling the pinch of the economic recession as donors cut back on their giving.
“We’re hurting. We’ve never had to ask for money before, and now we’re out there asking.” said Karen Guenther, co-founder and executive director of Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
Even as the number of injured troops seeking help has been on the rise, Guenther said her group has seen a drop in donations of about 34 percent this year compared with the first eight months of 2008.
That’s had an impact on assistance. Although the fund is giving more grants, the average amount of the grants has decreased, and the organization also has had to dip into its reserve funds, Guenther said.
The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund helps injured Marines and sailors and their families, as well as soldiers and other service members injured in direct support of Marines.
The Fisher House Foundation has seen a 30 percent drop in donations this year, said David Coker, foundation president.
Donations to the Military, Veterans & Patriotic Service Organizations of America group of charities within the Combined Federal Campaign declined in 2008 compared with the year before, even though overall CFC donation were up:
Fall 2008 $276 million– Fall 2007 $273 million Percent of change +1%
Fall 2008 $12.4 million Fall 2007 $12.9 Percent of change-3.9%
Guenther and other charity officials are pinning their hopes more than ever on the annual Combined Federal Campaign, which is just getting under way.
“When we joined CFC, we knew it would be a good way to sustain us in our lean years,” Guenther said. “That’s what we’re seeing now, so I’m hoping our CFC donations go up this year.”
But the outlook is uncertain. IMSFF and Fischer House are part of a military-related CFC federation of 69 charities called the Military, Veterans & Patriotic Service Organization of America).
CFC campaign donations to MVPSOA charities in 2008 decreased from 2007 by about 3.9 percent–even though overall donations to CFC increased by 1 percent.
Patrick Maguire, business manager for MVPSOA, called last year “a minor hiccup,” noting that since 2005, CFC donations to military-related charities have increased by 36 percent.
Still, he said he’s predicting a “flat” year for the 2009 campaign.
One reason military-related charities are feeling a pinch is that funding from the California Community Foundation is ending. Over the past three years, that foundation has funneled nearly $250 million to charities that help troops and families.
“Everyone had a tremendous plus-up and could increase services” through that initiative, said Coker of the Fisher House Foundation.
CFC donations play a big role in Fisher House’s ability to help troops and their families, Coker said. Among other things, those donation pay for families to stay free at Fisher House comfort homes near military treatment facilities. In 2008, the foundation received donations of $40 million, with about $2.6 million coming from the CFC.
The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project, a charity with a much smaller budget, has seen an increase in cash donation of about $3,000 or 4 percent, through July 31, compared with the first seven months of 2008.
“But if we didn’t have the [CFC] we would actually be down in donations,” said Karen Grimord, president and founder of the organization. “I’ve received three e-mails from donors in the last two months saying they could no longer support LHCP because they were losing their jobs.”
The foundation, working with 72 contacts in military and VA medical facilities, sends items, including blood warmers, special disposable wash cloths, thermal blankets, DVD players, and clothing ranging from disposable surgical underwear to socks, sweats and winter coats.
This will be LHCP’s first year in the MVPSOA federation, and Grimord said she hopes greater visibility will boost donations.
Some charities are close to the brink. “In the last three weeks, three military-related charities have told us they can no longer help clients – they have no money,” said USA Cares president Bill Nelson.
Many military-related charities work together, referring troops and families to sister charities that focus on a particular need, he noted. “Those of us who survive have to do more,” he said.
USA Cares focuses on emergency financial needs, including housing. The group has seen a drop of about 2 percent in donations this year, Nelson said.
Year-to-date donations for some military-related charities compared with same period last year:
Fisher House Foundation Percent of change -30% Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund Percent of change -34% USA Cares Percent of change -.2% Landstuhl Hospital Care Project Percent of change +4%
Sources: CFC, military charities