Monday, May 24, 2010

Foundations offer loans as a way to help nonprofits

The Buffalo News reported that a $650,000 check in 2008 from the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York for a new program to assist the frail elderly in Cattaraugus County came with a caveat: Trustees of the foundation wanted the money back, with interest.

A single grant of that size was beyond the capacity of the foundation, so trustees decided instead to make it a loan.

The money allowed Community Care of Western New York to launch a program that will keep more than 200 rural elderly people safely in their homes. Without it, the project probably would have stalled.

"It would not have opened without us, and what is a really promising model for elder care in a rural community would have been lost," said Ann Monroe, foundation president.

Increasingly, foundations in Western New York and across the country are turning to loans, loan guarantees and other measures as a way to aid needy nonprofit organizations without giving away the store.

The John R. Oishei Foundation, the area's largest private foundation, currently has more than $12 million — nearly 4 percent of its $280 million asset base — being used in this fashion. And at least two other local foundations, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and the Joy Family Foundation, have experimented with alternative financing.

Known as "program-related investments," or more popularly "PRIs," the loans and loan guarantees are serving a dual purpose for foundations hammered by stock market losses in 2008.

PRIs, like grants, put money toward projects that might not otherwise get off the ground. Read more here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Gerald Archibald, from The Bonadio Group, offered the following viewpoint:

“I don’t think you ever stop giving. I really don’t. I think it’s an on-going process. And it’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.” Oprah Winfrey

When you are asked to contribute to this year’s United Way Campaign, please dig deep and be as generous as possible with your pledge. After 35 years as a volunteer and contributor to our United Way, I continue to believe that the United Way Campaign provides the life blood for continuation of critical programs and services to those who are less fortunate in our community.

In last month’s column, (“There’s a lot of room to operate between autonomy and takeover,” April 1), I referenced a question posed to me by a board member who asked whether her non-profit agency should merge with another.

Coincidentally, the week that article ran, I had an opportunity to hear United Way’s President Peter Carpino make the case to me, and other members of an Executive Committee on which I serve, why non-profits need to do business differently.

United Way takes this subject very seriously… so seriously, in fact, that its Board has made a five-year commitment to a “Non-profit Sustainability Initiative.” United Way also has assembled a 12-member consortium with representatives from organizations that are interested in and committed to this issue as well.

The consortium’s membership is impressive and includes the Simon School, RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, SUNY Brockport, the Council of Agency Executives, the New York Council of Non-Profits, the Rochester Business Alliance, The Community Foundation, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, the Greater Rochester Quality Council, the Center for Governmental Research, and Grantmakers Forum of New York.

There’s no question in my mind that United Way is the right organization to assume leadership on this issue and that the time is right for them to do so.

Consider this:

New York State is facing a projected $27.5 billion deficit over the next three years;
Rochester’s United Way has raised $7.5 million less in the past four years, including $3.5 million less last year alone;

Given the impact that last year’s market downturn had on foundations’ endowments, grant making was reduced significantly.

The concept of sustainability is not new to United Way. Over the past 15 years, through its Synergy Fund, United Way has invested nearly $1 million to support increased efficiencies among not-for-profits through organizational re-engineerings ranging from co-locations to mergers. Recent successes include the Ibero-PRYD merger and AIDS Rochester-AIDS Community Health Center merger (now called AIDS Care).

Carpino noted that, given current economic realities, conditions are ripe for non-profits to explore restructuring and other forms of cost-effective collaboration more intentionally and to assess what is the right level of competition (given that too much competition can lead to service duplication).

And, he said, public and private funders no longer have the capacity (or, in some cases, the willingness) to support all the programs they’ve supported in the past. Therefore, non-profits should seek out and take advantage of opportunities to sharpen their focus or modify their priorities in light of changing community priorities. Read more here.