LONGMONT — An estimated 157 clients come through the doors of the OUR Center Hospitality Center every day.
Yet some days, like May 2, the center wonders if enough volunteers or donations will do the same.
“Today, even I was wondering if we would be short-staffed,” OUR Center executive director Edwina Salazar Waldrip said. “During the holidays, the kitchen is full of volunteers. When the weather is warmer, there are days when sometimes the cook is all by herself.”
Nonprofit agencies often are inundated — and happily so — with donations and those looking for volunteer opportunities from Thanksgiving through the December holidays.
For some nonprofits, it’s that winter fat that must sustain the agencies through the rest of the year.
“In Colorado, we see $3 billion of charitable gifts (to nonprofits) each year,” said Charley Shimanski, president and CEO of the Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
He added that 80 percent of that — $2.4 billion — comes in during the holidays from individuals.
Shimanski said the hardest hit from the post-holidays blues are those nonprofits that provide health and human services.
The OUR Center, for example, tries not to reduce client services such as rent assistance and food boxes when it encounters cash-flow problems, Salazar Waldrip said.
Rather, the center cuts back on things like paper and personnel training, something Salazar Waldrip said could be solved if the influx of donations and volunteers evened out over the year.
“We could plan better,” she said. “We’ve accepted that people have schedules, and they are free to keep their schedules. We appreciate that giving spirit, and when the spirit moves people, we would hope they carry that through other times in the year.”
Other nonprofits, like the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group and Nine Health Services Inc., are examples of nonprofits that do not rely heavily on holiday giving, Shimanski said. Instead, they rely on member donations and fundraising year-round.
Some nonprofit organizations are moving to “earned income” or for-profit events like golf tournaments and 10k races, Shimanski said.
He said the Girl Scouts of America cookie campaign is the best example: The cookie buyers don’t get tax deductions, the organization gets taxed and the event still raises revenue.
“These events are not seasonal-specific, but weather-specific,” Shimanski said. “The donors don’t feel like they’re contributing because they’re getting something out of it.”
Community Food Share, a food bank that serves Boulder and Broomfield counties, is a local nonprofit that sees 45 percent to 55 percent of its financial gifts late in the calendar year, from donors looking for a chance at holiday generosity or a tax deduction, said Terry Tedeschi, CFS development and marketing director.
But the food bank doesn’t wait around for December holiday generosity to fill its shelves.
“Hunger does not have a season,” Tedeschi said. “Everybody wants a special holiday meal, but they’re not in more need in December than in July.”
As for food donations, Tedeschi said Community Food Share employs a food-procurement manager whose job it is to seek out the items that food drives held by individual groups (like a school or church) and corporate companies fail to bring in.
Though volunteer numbers might remain steady through the year, Tedeschi conceded that trained regulars tend to vacation during the warmer months.
Their substitutes, who might be high school students and church members looking for service projects, step in and “efficiency drops,” she said.
Shimanski said the greatest challenge to nonprofits is a disaster, like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the December 2004 tsunami.
Donors begin to send their contributions out of the state and country, while local nonprofits must meet their demands with less, he said.
At those times, Shimanski said, “We need to increase our charitable giving, not redirect it.”
Small nonprofits, like the Good News Center in downtown Longmont, truly see the highs and lows of generosity.
Donations can double during the holidays. But, as assistant director Duane Wallon said, “We try to know it’s not going to last.”
The center, operated solely by volunteers and unpaid staff, collects and distributes food, clothing and appliances free to those in need. Its donors tend to be churches and individuals, Wallon said.
Though donations seem scarce after the holidays, he said, the Good News Center is finding a way to make ends meet, like signing on as a beneficiary of the National Association of Letter Carriers food drive on Saturday.
“The mission doesn’t change, no matter the weather, no matter the season,” Wallon said.
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.