September 11, 2007
Focus on the Family announced Monday that it is laying off 30 employees and reassigning 15 others. It also announced that founder James Dobson had been cleared of accusations that he jeopardized the group’s nonprofit status by endorsing Republican candidates.
Most of the layoffs are in the organization’s Constituent Response Services department that answers mail and telephone requests. A drop in projected revenue played a part in the layoffs, and the growth of e-mail and Internet-based communications is behind the reassignments, said Gary Schneeberger, vice president of communications. The layoffs are less than 3 percent of the work force of 1,205. After layoffs, 70 employees will remain in Constituent Response Services. Some of the departing employees’ duties will be reassigned. Jim Daly, Focus president and CEO, said that the organization expects to take in about $1 million more than in 2005-06 by the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30 but that the increase doesn’t offset inflation. “Our budget was fairly aggressive. The projected budget was $150 million. It looks like it will come in about $8 million under, at $142 million,” Schneeberger said. Dobson has said on several of his radio shows that donations have been down. Many churches and parachurch organizations are seeing decreases in income, according to Terry Gorka, head administrator at Barna, a California-based research organization that tracks Christian ministries. The collection plate has been suffering for a number of years and even more so recently as economic woes, including the housing downturn, has hit. While many denominations suggest a 10 percent tithe, in recent years most Americans have given less than 3 percent of their income, a Barna study found. Those leaving Focus will be given packages that include contributions to health care expenses, job-placement assistance and financial compensation. “Organizational change, while healthy and positive, is always difficult when it involves a staff reduction,” Daly said in a news release. “Building flexibility into our internal operations is vital to staying engaged with and relevant to our constituents. The adjustments we’re making this week, though difficult, will allow us to better serve the families that rely on Focus on the Family in the future.” The changes take effect Sept. 21. The nonprofit’s 2007-08 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Focus is Colorado Springs’ largest evangelical organization, with a worldwide radio program, publications and telephone help for families. The IRS ruled that Dobson was acting as an individual and not on behalf of Focus in his endorsement of political candidates. “We were confident all along that we were within the letter of the law. We were hyper-compliant. There was not one slap on the wrist from the IRS. As a private citizen, he can speak out about what he wants to, and he always made clear he was speaking as a private citizen,” Schneeberger said Monday. Liberal watchdog groups, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Colorado Springsbased Citizens Project, had filed complaints with the IRS in 2005.