- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — When Irving Taylor looks at the books for the Richmond Boys Choir, he almost sees red.

If donations and grant funding don’t increase soon, the nonprofit community choir may be silenced.

“We are in a challenging situation,” said Mr. Taylor, chairman of the Boys Choir board. “We found that as we moved to diversify our funding sources, the move did not occur quickly enough. With the economy the way it is, individual patrons have pulled back on their decisions to support nonprofits.”

The choir is operating with only about 70 percent of the money it needs to comfortably exist, Mr. Taylor said. About $150,000 is needed to continue operating through June 30, the end of the choir’s fiscal year, and to provide a cushion for the first half of the next fiscal year, he said.

The scenario is common. Numerous charities in Richmond are struggling to pay for an increased demand for services or to maintain programs at existing levels.

“The economy has been struggling, and there are so many new nonprofits,” said Russell Cargo, executive director of the Nonprofit Enterprise Institute, based at Virginia Commonwealth University. “The whole fund-raising process has become so professional in the last 10 years that the competition is incredibly fierce.”

According to research conducted last summer by the institute and by the University of Richmond-based Campus Community Partnership, there are 2,650 nonprofits in the metro area.

“The veteran charities are probably doing fine because they’ve been through it before,” said Nancy Stutts, director of the Partnership. “Many of the newer organizations are probably not doing so well.”

But John Purnell, executive director of the Friends Association for Children, says this is the worst dip in giving he can recall in his 30 years with the agency. Officials at his association are providing more scholarships than ever to families whose dwindling resources are preventing them from paying already-subsidized child-care fees at Friends’ four day care centers, he said.

“I am desperately concerned about July 1,” Mr. Purnell said of the start of the agency’s next fiscal year. “We like to have the dollars in before the fiscal year starts.”

Such challenges have led many charities to adopt drastic and creative measures.

Some organizations, for example, have merged. The Boys Choir laid off some its staff several months ago. Choir leaders also have arranged to provide a music appreciation program for youths who live at St. Joseph’s Villa for a fee paid by the villa.

Mr. Taylor said the difficulties are worth the struggle to continue serving the boys who join the choir and the community that appreciates their music.

“We can make it,” he said. “We’ve just got to get creative and do what we’ve never done before.”

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