When times get tough
In a newsletter inserted in The Times today, the Martha's Vineyard Donors Collaborative (MVDC) reports on its fall survey of Island nonprofit organizations. The recession has hit Vineyarders and Vineyard nonprofits hard, but there is good news as well as bad. MVDC executive director Peter Temple reports that Vineyard nonprofits have done better than the nation as a whole, and there are many heartening tales of benefactors stepping up in hard times.
The bad news reported today in the MVDC newsletter is that the number of persons here who require help has increased greatly, according to those agencies that responded, including 11 of the 13 largest nonprofits. Sixty-nine percent of health and human services agencies (such as the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, Vineyard Nursing Association, Martha's Vineyard Community Services, Women Empowered, etc.) saw the demand for their services increase this summer compared to last, and more than half saw contributions decrease. About a third reported that contributions decreased "greatly." One third, according to the survey, will run deficits this year.
Mr. Temple told The Times in a telephone interview that many nonprofits on the Vineyard have expended their reserves, at a time when their services are more needed than ever.
The MVDC newsletter reports that since June, 65 households have dropped off the Duke County Housing Authority wait list for affordable housing and left the Island (101 remain on the wait list).
The MVDC reports that homelessness, according to Connie Teixeira, Dukes County associate commissioner, is on the rise. Ms. Teixeira reported to MVDC that she counts 14 persons homeless this fall, up from 10 last winter and only two or three in past years. While there are homeless shelters on the Cape, there are none on Martha's Vineyard.
The brighter side
However, the news on Martha's Vineyard is not as bad as it might have been. Mr. Temple credits the timing of the onset of the recession with giving Vineyard nonprofits time to prepare. Off-Island, most nonprofits depend on year-end fund-raising appeals, sent out at a time when donors may wish to adjust their charitable giving for tax purposes. The '08 recession greatly reduced the success of those appeals. However, many Martha's Vineyard nonprofits use summer fundraisers, aimed at summer residents and visitors, and when the economy went south in the fall of 2008, Vineyard nonprofits had already completed their '08 campaigns. They had time to adjust, make contingency plans, and trim budgets.
When times are hard, the best people come to the fore. Like the MVDC summer newsletter, today's insert tells the stories of dozens of Vineyard philanthropists and ordinary folks who have made a difference to their communities in the past year.
Mr. Temple also cited four important programs rescued from the jaws of the recession. The MSPCA withdrew support from the Vineyard animal shelter, but the community, led by the county, has saved it. Vineyard Mediation lost its state grant, but the members decided to continue services as volunteers. The Island Housing Fund is unable to continue its contribution to the rental assistance program, but individual towns have stepped in to fill the gap, at least temporarily. Bridge Housing announced that it would close, but promising efforts are under way to save it.
The bottom line
The MVDC newsletter tells two sides of the same tale - the seriousness of the need and the heroic efforts to meet it. These are tough economic times, and Mr. Temple expects that the recession will continue to hurt Island nonprofits while making their services even more needed. However, he stressed that Vineyard philanthropy is winning the struggle and Island non-profits continue to function.
Mr. Temple hopes these stories will encourage all donors to continue to contribute. "These organizations are not about to fold," he tells MV Times readers today. "They are worthy of your money."