Non-profits lose money on stock market

October 16, 2008 12:23:33 AM PDT
The volatile economic situation is taking a heavy toll on non-profits. So much so, that the nation's third-largest community foundation, which awards grant money to charities and non-profits, has lost millions in the stock market.

At Silicon Valley Community Foundation's regional meeting, donors, non-profits, and civic leaders wanted answers about how the foundation is faring in this down economy.

"We're certainly not immune to the downturn or the roller coaster," said Vera Bennett, the foundation's C.F.O.

While the foundation has $1.75 billion dollars in assets, their endowment fund has recently taken a $9 million hit because of the market downturn.

With fewer dollars in the pool, that loss will likely be felt by non-profits, applying for grants next year.

"Certainly they should be looking at that many foundations will not be able to sustain the level of funding that they had in prior years," said Emmett Carson, C.E.O. of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

It's a financial reality many didn't expect to hear.

"Even in difficult financial times there are children who are hurting," said Debra Watkins, with the California Alliance of African American Education.

"It's a little sad that we have to fight for these dollars as much as we do," said Tessa Soloman, with the Family Service Agency of San Mateo County.

Those at the family service agency of San Mateo County offer help with employment, mental health, senior services, and child care.

Last year this agency received a $65,000 grant from the community foundation. And after the state matched those dollars, all of the money went toward a one-year-long child abuse treatment program. That program ends in a matter of weeks.

"The money we don't get for project support through the foundation, we have to raise in unrestricted funding which is going out to individuals, special events, giving major gifts, and we feel a lot of pressure," said Soloman.

It's pressure to do a lot with little, especially in a time when needs are rising. Since September, five to 10 percent more seniors are coming to the agency for their daily meals.

The community foundation is spearheading a referral service to get area non-profits to help one another through this current crisis.


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