Carlisle History

A living history of Carlisle, PA

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NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS IN CARLISLE: Funding Challenges

 Introduction   History of Welfare Systems   History of Non-Profit Organizations   Poverty and Non-Profits   Funding Challenges of Non-Profits   The “Bigger Picture”   Interview with Jeff Conway-Carlisle United Way   Interview with Dale Cross-Employment Skills Center

There are a variety of non-profit organizations in the Borough of Carlisle

One of the most important, distinguishing factors about non-profits are their national and local affiliations, and the implications they have on an organization’s funding. Unlike local organizations, such as the Employment Skills Center, which rely on national corporations for a significant amount of funding, the Carlisle United Way is a federated fund. This means that the United Way receives money from the government to execute its own programs and to be able to support the other non-profit organizations in the community. The role of the national non-profit is thus essential to the success of the local non-profit organizations, as Jeff Conway, the Executive Director of the Carlisle United Way, confirms:

The individual projects that the local organizations get involved with are always hurt by the fact that they don’t have the great funds behind them that a national organization may have… I think we are definitely needed because all of the organizations… rely on us for funding.  They truly rely on us, not just for bonus money. For some of them we are a quarter, or a half of their budget. They are very dependent upon us as a fundraiser.”

Though the local organizations receive funding from the national organizations, which in turn, receive their funding from the government, all non-profit organizations must fundraise individually so they can have the means to support the needs of the community and promote social change. The interviews I conducted with the Executive Directors of the Carlisle United Way, Jeff Conway, and the Employment Skills Center, Dale Cross, indicate that both organizations face funding challenges despite the generous nature of the Carlisle community.

First of all, people giving to the organization will want to see results. Yet “while many non-profits provide services that are valuable to our community, it is often difficult to measure actual results of their services. Changes in an individual’s or a community’s behavior may take years to be realized.”[3] In addition, we must take into account that some Carlisle residents do not have the financial means to contribute to the non-profit organizations because they actually rely on them to get by.

 However, the fact that so many non-profit organizations exist in Carlisle indicate that the community is receptive to them and contributes to them; the community realizes that the organizations are needed to address the poverty issues of the town. According to Dale Cross,

The fact that we have a fairly decent base of individual contributions is another indicator that we are well received… Like a lot of non-profits,  we have a lot of fundraising events from time to time to generate funds and the response to those is very good. People come out to support us at those events.”

 Jeff Conway agrees: “We have a very generous community… it really comes down to a matter of skill, rather than a matter of getting the money. Some organizations just don’t know how to raise money. It’s not that they can’t raise the money; they just don’t know how to go about it. I find raising money in Carlisle to be very—I don’t want to say it is easy—but it’s not hard. You can do it. “

Despite the overall  positive support of non-profits from the Carlisle community, differences in public opinion can hinder the organization from receiving financial support from the community. As Jeff Conway describes in the following passage regarding a funding challenge of the United Way:“I think every organization, including the United Way, has its people who don’t understand, or they disagree, with what we do. An example of that is how we support the Boy Scouts.  And Dickinson College is a fine example. We have professors at Dickinson College and the School of Law who don’t believe we should support the Boy Scouts because they don’t allow openly gay members within their organization. So if you’re an openly gay boy and you join the boy scouts, and you announce that you are openly gay, you will not be allowed to be a boy scout. That gets into discrimination… We have chosen to support them because the Supreme Court supports them. The Supreme Court has said they are a private membership organization, they can determine who their members are. Period.  And we support the Supreme Court. We’re not going to set rules that go against the Supreme Court’s ruling. If the Supreme Court were to say “That’s discrimination,” we’d be the first group to drop them. Because we do support the Boy Scouts, that causes problems for some members… like “The United Way is supporting a group not allowing gays, therefore, I am not going to support the United Way.” They don’t look at the better good that we do…… And if they want to not give their money to the Boy Scouts, they can choose to do that… we’ll give it to the other twenty-six agencies. But they want to send us a message that “I’m not going to support you because of that…” and we just have to live with that. Overall, I would say that the community strongly feels good support about the United Way and feels that we are doing a right thing. It’s a very small minority that feels that way.”The points that Conway makes in describing how personal beliefs influence a person’s decision to support a non-profit, indicate not only how complicated and serious the funding challenges can be, but how new tensions arise in a community and worsen a problem such as poverty. The conflict regarding an issue such as gay rights hurts non-profits because community members may stop contributing to the organization, significantly decreasing the non-profit’s funding. Consequently, the organization will not have the money it needs in order to serve the community through the programs they run that aid the poor.


 

[2] Kerri Poeppe, “Revenue: Fees and Fundraising,” Basic Overview of Nonprofit Organizations,                http://www.managementhelp.org/org_thry/np_thry/np_intro.htm.

 

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