Salvation Army volunteers are bundled up and ringing bells outside bustling retail stores, contribution envelopes are arriving in the mail, and donations are being collected around the office and given to predetermined charitiestis the season of giving.
The giving season in Spokane this year, however, began much earlier than Christmas.
Kent Adams, president of Adams & Associates Consulting Inc., which specializes in serving nonprofit organizations, says more major-gift campaigns are being undertaken by nonprofit organizations here now than at any time during the 22 years he has lived in Spokane. He adds that in some cases, the fund-raising goals also are a lot higher than the levels with which the Spokane area is accustomed.
Adams says that according to his records, more than 20 major-gift campaigns either are under way or are planned for next year. Thats roughly four times as many campaigns as were expected or under way just five years ago, he says. They include a $600,000 capital campaign that now is being undertaken by the Spokane Civic Theatre, a $1.5 million capital campaign that is being undertaken by the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, and a $10 million capital campaign that is being undertaken by St. Georges, a North Spokane private school.
Jeanne Ager, owner of Ager Consulting, a Spokane company that works with nonprofit entities and foundations, says she, too, has seen a large increase in the number of major-gift campaigns being undertaken here.
The good news is a large number of the campaigns that were under way earlier this year already have met their goals. I have been impressed by how well thought out many of the campaigns were this year, Ager says. Also, individual contributions are up, as well as business contributions, she contends.
Kay Rafferty, director of major and planned giving for the Spokane Symphony, says the symphony reached its goal of raising $3 million in about 18 months, which is exactly how long it projected such campaign would take. The YMCA also completed a capital campaign this year, reaching its goal of $5 million.
The symphonys Rafferty concedes that at times, it was a challenge for the symphony to solicit funds because there were so many other campaigns going on here. She contends that larger gifts werent as difficult to secure because many of the family foundations here knew what was coming up, and they had decided which campaigns they planned to support before the agencies even contacted them. It was a challenge, however, to get pledges in the middle rangethose between $5,000 and $25,000because those pledges typically come from businesses here, which have been flooded with requests.
A reason for the requests
Adams contends that the reason for the growing number of fund-raising campaigns is threefold: pent-up demand, an improved economy here, and the approaching end of the Comstock Fund.
He says that during the 1980s, when many companies were experiencing cutbacks and the economy was relatively unstable here, many major-gift campaigns were put on hold. Now, those campaigns are being kicked off.
According to a feasibility study that Adams firm conducted earlier this year, business owners and community leaders werent expecting a major dip in the economy during the next 18 months or so. This gave many nonprofits a green light to go ahead with their planned campaigns, he says.
Meanwhile, the Comstock Fund, one of Spokanes largest foundations and a longtime source of donations here, is expected to expire July 1, 2000.
The foundation was established in 1950 by Josie C. Shadles last will and testament. Shadle was the daughter of J.M. Comstock, a former mayor of Spokane and a founder of The Crescent department store. According to records filed with the Charities Division of the Secretary of States Office, the Comstock Fund had about $12.8 million in assets at the end of 1997.
Although many wont admit it, I believe the end of the Comstock Fund is encouraging those nonprofits that might otherwise wait to start their campaign later, to act now, Adams says. As the foundation begins liquidating, its going to be giving out assets as well as earnings, which in the short-term is wonderful. In the long-term, its going to be devastating.
Adams says that after July 2000, Comstock contributions that non-profits here have grown accustomed to receiving no longer will be available. He says that many nonprofits, such as the Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts of America, have counted on large gifts from the Comstock Fund to help meet their campaign goals.
Others in the nonprofit-development industry here have echoed Adams concerns, and additional worries have been sparked by changes at Spokanes Leuthold Foundation, which was started in 1948, but recently was turned over to Foundation Northwest, which operates a community foundation. Unlike most foundations, Foundation Northwest gets its funds from a much broader collection of sources, including public donations and contributions from endowments, says Candy Hanford, vice president of Foundation Northwest.
Hanford says the trustees of the Leuthold Foundation recently decided they needed to retire, but they believed that the fund should continue to support nonprofits here. So, rather than appoint a new board of trustees, the trustees turned the fund over to Foundation Northwest. The income from the Leuthold Foundation will continue to be available to nonprofits, but they used to seek contributions from both Foundations Northwest and the Leuthold Foundation, and there now will be one less source to tap in the future, Hanford says.
I know that at this point in time, there isnt a huge amount of foundation resources, Hanford says. Besides Foundation Northwest and the Comstock Fund, theres only another half-dozen smaller foundations in the Inland Northwest. Many nonprofits are asking, Where will money come from in the future? and thats a genuine concern.
To fill the void that will be left by the Comstock Fund, Ager believes community leaders should create a revolving capital loan fund, which would be seeded with donations from some businesses here. Then, nonprofits could apply for grants from the fund and eventually pay it back.
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