Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Companies Can Help Fill Public-Aid Gap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Companies Can Help Fill Public-Aid Gap

Article excerpt

Today's nonprofit organization faces a relentless arithmetic: Federal grants are shrinking or disappearing. Competition is stiff for limited individual, foundation and business gifts.

While the need for services continues to expand, nonprofit service providers must scramble even more aggressively for ever-scarce funding. Founded in 1860, our own nonprofit organization - Provident Counseling - is St. Louis' oldest and largest outpatient mental health agency.

In 1970, grants from the United Way of Greater St. Louis covered almost 75 percent of Provident's annual operating expenses. Today, although the United Way's dollar allocation to Provident continues to rise, the United Way covers only 28 percent of our total operating needs.

Where must nonprofit organizations turn to make up the shortfall? To alliances with local businesses and institutions. Survival for the nonprofit organization depends upon the creative pursuit of private-sector partnerships that allow both the service provider and the company to develop programs that benefit both.

These partnerships can provide needed financial support, expand awareness of the organization's services and reach out to a larger client base.

Let me cite a few examples: In downtown St. Louis, businesses along Locust Street forged a partnership with the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center to pay homeless men to clean up the area. Businesses get cleaner streets. The Salvation Army helps its client base rebuild self-esteem and learn landscaping techniques.

Other businesses have established partnerships with universities to train the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The academic institutions gain needed scholarship and cooperative education opportunities; businesses get valuable labor in summer interns and help train future employees.

Nonprofits have even turned to corporate sponsors for help in providing services. For example, the partnership between Girls Incorporated of St. Louis and Edward Jones - a national securities firm - helps students understand the basic hardware and software of personal computers through practical hands-on experience. Professionals from the securities firm volunteer their time to educate young girls through this project. A team of young professionals initiated, planned and executed this project with Girls Incorporated.

Another example of a partnership that helped a nonprofit agency respond to unmet needs is one Grace Hill Neighborhood Services initiated with Boatmen's Bank.

Sociologists have found that some low-income people manage money by relying principally on cash - converting entitlement checks into cash or money orders. This exposes them to high money-management costs and robbery. In addition, operating in cash does not encourage savings.

To address these concerns, Boatmen's set up 500 bank accounts for Grace Hill residents. The bank waived fees, installed automated teller machines in the neighborhood and set up direct deposit for entitlement checks into these accounts. …

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