Administrative costs necessary for charities

By PERRY SWANSON Updated: November 25, 2007 at 12:00 am • Published: November 25, 2007
It feels warm to give a few bucks to a charity at Christmas, knowing the money will buy a coat for a needy child. Would it feel as warm if you knew the money would help pay for a filing cabinet and a computer? As Colorado Springs charities roll out their holiday appeals for money, a few will run into the perennial aversion among some donors to some of their money going for mundane expenses. But the routine costs are just as important to charities that help the needy as money spent on food, shelter and medical care, experts said. If they can’t pay their own employees and utility bills, after all, they can’t help those in need. “In some cases, I guess people think that people who work for nonprofits shouldn’t get paid,” said David Just, chief of the American Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter. The Red Cross helps victims of disasters such as fires, tornadoes and floods. Generally speaking, it’s not that local charities overspend on administrative costs. Colorado Springs-based charities scored nearly on par with others nationwide in a study released earlier this year. The study, conducted by Charity Navigator, found charities based in the Springs spend 11 percent of their money on administrative expenses. The national median is 10 percent. Moreover, the study ranked Colorado Springs-based charities the fourth-most financially healthy in the nation. Among the highest-rated Colorado Springs charities in the study was Care & Share Food Bank, which coordinates supplies for food pantries across southern Colorado. Charity Navigator reports Care and Share spends 1.6 percent of its budget on administrative expenses. Keeping administrative costs at a minimum isn’t the only challenge charities face. When a gift comes in that’s essentially labeled for a specific type of recipient, charities must decide whether to accept the gift, no matter how complicated its provisions might be, or turn it away. That was one challenge for Salvation Army thrift stores in January, after a fire that destroyed the Castle West Apartments, when some donors brought in merchandise they wanted given only to people of a certain gender or race. The Red Cross had a similar experience, Just said. “We got one from a particular racial group — it wasn’t white — and they said, ‘We want to give you $10,000, but we only want it to go to this race,’ and we refused it,” he said. Situations like that highlight why it’s important for charities to be clear about their intentions and donors to be equally clear about their expectations when giving, said Mark Turner, manager of public policy for the Colorado Nonprofit Association. “There are expectations in the public that donations do go certain ways, and for specific purposes,” Turner said. “It’s not always easy to satisfy those requests.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0187 or perry.swanson@gazette.com HOW TO HELP - Community Partnership for Child Development is hosting its Adopt-a-Family program to help lowincome families during the holiday season. Those interested in helping these families can go to www.cpcdheadstart.org and click on the Adopt-A-Family link. Information is available online or by calling Delberta Uvalle, 635-1536. - Be a Santa to a Senior program will provide presents to seniors who otherwise might not receive a gift this holiday season. Donations may be made at the following locations: the Wal-Marts at 5550 E. Woodmen Road, 1575 Space Center Drive, 6310 S. Highway 85-87 in Fountain, 16218 Jackson Creek Parkway, 11550 Meridian Market View in Falcon, and 19600 E. Highway 24 in Woodland Park; US Bank, 2308 E. Pikes Peak Ave.; Infiniti’s Hair Salon, 4101 Centennial Blvd.; In Care of You, 625 N. Cascade Ave.; Wells Fargo Bank, 90 S. Cascade Ave.; Physicians Home Health Care, 3650 Rebecca Lane; Deluxe Business Checks and Solutions, 8245 N. Union Blvd; and Austin Hair and Company, 7854 N. Academy Blvd. Volunteers also are needed Dec. 8 at First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave., for a gift-wrapping party. For information call 534-0908 or go to www.beasantatoasenior.com. - The Salvation Army will have Christmas kettles and bell-ringers throughout the city through Dec. 24. Money raised helps not only at Christmastime but throughout the year. For information, call Jed Brown, 360-0715. The Salvation Army is also collecting coats for distribution to the needy. Gently used coats can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 910 Yuma St. For information, call 636-5266 or go to www.tsacs.org. - The 24th annual Gazette-El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking Fund is accepting donations through Jan. 18. The goal is to raise $1 million for 14 area nonprofit organizations. Donations may be made online at www.coloradosprings.com and clicking on the Empty Stocking Fund link or by mailing a check to Empty Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 400, Colorado Springs, CO 80901. For information, call Amanda Mountain at 636-0204 or e-mail amanda.mountain@gazette.com. - Urban Peak Transitional Shelter needs donations to help feed youths ages 15-21. For a list of items needed, call Stephanie Cardwell at 389-0973 or e-mail stephcardwell@interfold. com. - If you are associated with an organization or business that is looking for community assistance to help the needy during the holidays, e-mail your information, along with a contact phone number, to carlotta. olson@gazette.com or fax to 636-0202. Please call 636-0221 for more information. Listings are limited to those businesses or groups that will not profit from the activity.
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