Audubon Employees Donate to Own Nonprofit in Hard Times
DALLAS, March 17, 2009, Reuters — Times are tough for U.S. non-profit organizations, so tough that some employees at one are donating their own money to help stave off layoffs and keep their projects going.
Employees at the National Audubon Society, an environmental group dedicated to habitat conservation, have pledged about $800,000 through voluntary payroll deductions in an internal donation drive to help see it through the recession.
Like many non-profits, Audubon has been squeezed by the severity of the economic downturn.
"We have frozen salaries for 2009 and 2010 and we anticipate that there will be cuts in other places, including layoffs," said Phil Kavits, Audubon's spokesman.
"Staff knows that there will likely be layoffs and/or furloughs soon, yet collectively, they have responded with pledges," he said.
Audubon employs about 700 people and Kavits said that 154 employees had so far donated through payroll deductions, which are kept anonymous.
Non-profits are often staffed by activists passionate about their cause so this behavior is unlikely to be repeated in many other places.
"We depend on the support of our donors and in this time of recession ... it is all the more important for us to make a compelling case as to why a foundation or individual should give to Audubon instead of anybody else," Audubon president John Flicker said in an interview.
"We realized that we were all victims of a recession we didn't create but our staff said we don't want to act like victims. We want to go out to our donors and say we need your help now more than ever and how can we do that? ... The best way to raise money is to first give yourself," he said.
The recession's impact is not immediately apparent in the annual reports of many conservation or animal welfare groups. But several financial statements examined by Reuters are until the end of 2007 or for a financial year that ended in mid-2008 -- just before the recession began to bite.