More Need, Less Help
Overall, gifts to the foundation, a main source of grants to local nonprofits, dropped by nearly $2.5 million in the second half of 2008.
By late February, the largest anchor of philanthropy in town, the United Way of the Midlands, was more than $1 million short of its $12.2 million goal for the annual campaign that is ending soon. In this fundraising environment, said Anita Floyd, a United Way vice president, the cuts the governor and the legislature have made are "really frightening. . . . There is no way for the private side to come in and close that gap."
All across town, direct donations are drying up. South Carolina Legal Services, a statewide network that gives free legal help, in July received the biggest grant handed out by the South Carolina Bar Foundation but in January was asked to return 15 percent of it.
At the Salvation Army, where donations have also dropped, office receptionist Debbie Cresswell has started making calls every Monday morning to other local nonprofits to find out which ones have money and appointments available.
"I really hate telling people, no, we can't assist them," Cresswell said. "It hurts. It hurts not only the person who needs the help, but it hurts the person who has to tell them, 'No, we don't have the funding to help you.' "
The strains on the new poor, as well as the conservatism of the political culture within the state government, are well known to one of South Carolina's most influential voices in Washington, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D), the third-ranking member of the House. Anticipating that Sanford would oppose stimulus money, Clyburn did an end-run around the governor: He worked into the stimulus package a provision that allows a state legislature to accept the federal money if a governor rejects it.