Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Surviving the Challenging Economy: A recap of the May 15, 2012 Oakland Chamber Non-Profit Roundtable Meeting


By Jerry Metzker
Non-profit Roundtable Co-Chair
Development & Marketing Manager, Biotech Partners


Financial matters in our challenging economy were the focus of the May 15, 2012 Oakland Chamber Nonprofit Roundtable. As representatives of community benefits organizations, attendees were well aware that the negative impact on the Oakland community has been severe, but the facts and numbers presented exposed a far more disastrous effect.

An article by consultant Jan Masaoka (http://blueavocado.org/content/titanic-recession-which-nonprofits-get-lifeboats-editor-notes-issue#comment-16629) highlighted the disparity of effect by using the sinking of the Titanic as metaphor. Just as the steerage passengers (primarily poverty-stricken Irish) were locked in their quarters to go down with the ship, the poorest in our communities and nation have been the first sacrificed by having their services cut, even as the need has grown. Support for community benefits organizations that serve the poorest in our community has been shrinking tremendously during the economic challenge. While writer Holly Hall noted in philanthropy.com (http://philanthropy.com/blogs/prospecting/charities-that-provide-the-basics-attract-new-donors/33234) that several organizations experienced an increase in donations at the start of the downtown, sustaining the income has been unsuccessful.

Allison Pratt, Director of Policy and Services of the Alameda County Community Food Bank, shared several unnerving details about the need for her agency's services. The Food Bank currently distributes 22 million pounds of food annually in collaboration with 275 community partners, from churches to drop-in shelters. She noted that the Food Bank serves one in six county residents at least once per year, half of the households are working and 2/3 of the clients are children and seniors. The most startling detail is how the Food Bank is receiving requests of assistance from past donors. Over the past several years, the Food Bank’s support has doubled. Sadly, she forecast that as the government continues to reduce its activity to support the country’s poorest and most helpless citizens (seniors and children), this already dire situation is going to worsen.

Following Pratt’s presentation, Roundtable Co-Chair and Executive Director of Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster (CARD) Âna-Marie Jones led a conversation on how to respect those most adversely affected by the poor economy. Tips included rejecting the degrading labeling of people without knowing their individual situations, recognizing that those living in poverty have not chosen this as a lifestyle and realizing that being broke and living in generational poverty are not the same situation even though those in those situations rely on the same services. The proper action is for those of us who do work to strengthen and improve our community to give voice to these individuals and remind them that they have a voice.

As stated in Jan Masaoka’s article, community benefits organizations are shutting their doors at an alarming rate. For organizations that rely on funding partnerships to provide the service, a consistent and diverse influx of income is essential. Roundtable Co-Chair and Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners Jerry Metzker shared several fundraising facts and approaches, such as six out of seven adults contribute financially to organizations, and “asking” and sharing are common activities of every human being.

The next Oakland Chamber Roundtable Meeting is Tuesday, June 19, from 2:30-4:30pm in the Chamber Board Room. Co-Chair Âna-Marie Jones will be leading a conversation on Oakland’s growing hospitality base and ways community benefits organizations can connect in mutually beneficial ways. All are welcome.

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