- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - The oil downturn has many Houston nonprofits scaling back as donations plunge in the nation’s energy capital.

The Greater Houston United Way has warned member charities to expect a possible 10 percent cut in grants. The Pink Ribbon Project, which for two decades had an annual budget of about $1 million to promote breast cancer advocacy and research, is blaming a loss of major donors as a reason for why it will close its doors in May.

Oil prices ended last week at just under $36 a barrel. Falling profits, spreading layoffs and the uncertainty about the duration of the downturn has wiped out usually reliable donors left others unable to maintain previous levels of generous support, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1YiN7Oo ).

“We have lost some of our major donors, or they may have scaled back significantly,” said Kristi Okwuonu, executive director of the Pink Ribbon Project. “Where they gave us $30,000 before, they may only be able to give us $3,000. That happening multiple times made us take a hard look at our sustainability.”

The budget squeeze has affected larger nonprofits as well. Although their survival might not be in doubt, they are being forced to cut programs and services they see as essential to their missions, and the demand for which may grow in tougher times.

“We are definitely feeling it,” said Elise Hough, president of Easter Seals of Greater Houston. “I have had several of our big donors tell us that 2016 is going to be our worst year, so get ready.”

In November, Hough said, the organization made tough decisions to streamline as much as possible, to cut positions and not fill open ones. The nonprofit also combined services and went a second year without raises.

Martin Cominsky, CEO of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, said his next budget could be as much as $1 million short of last year’s.

“Our economy in Houston is resilient, but there is no way around it when a big sector is hit that hard,” said Cominsky, whose organization runs the Meals on Wheels program for seniors and another program devoted to refugee services.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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