These are not the easiest of times for the leader of a social service nonprofit. Just ask Anthony Maione, the president and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island since January 2005.
Three years ago, at the depths of the Great Recession, he had to trim staff. Then he had to pull back on the yearly giving goals of the nonprofit.
Today the challenge stems from disaster in public sector finance, with federal, state and local budgets facing wave after wave of cuts. He talks about what he sees as the challenges of the day and going forward.
PBN: How did the United Way do against its most recent fundraising goal?
MAIONE: United Way of Rhode Island runs on a fiscal year that ends in June. Our last completed campaign, 2010-11 [with a goal of $13.5 million] was flat against the previous year. Given the challenging economy we are grateful to our donors for maintaining their commitment to our work.
PBN: With the national economy seeming to pick up momentum, what have you seen in giving in Rhode Island so far this year?
MAIONE: At a macro level, the experts seem to agree that the economy in Rhode Island will come back more slowly than at the national level. But underneath that, we are seeing some glimmers of hope. The stock market return has encouraged donors to give appreciated stock and some sectors are feeling more secure about their future. There are bright spots, but these are still challenging times for people and companies.
PBN: Has the Great Recession changed the nature of giving, either in how people are giving and what causes/programs they choose to support?
MAIONE: The Great Recession has given us a time of dramatically increased need and some of the worst fundraising years on record in the nation in 2009 and 2010.
As unemployment continues to be a long-term issue, giving toward basic human needs is compelling, especially as safety-net programs are cut while the number of people who rely on those programs increases due to the economy.
At these times it is critically important for organizations to be engaged with their loyal donors and not take them for granted. Making sure that donors know what results were achieved with their donations is more important than ever for all nonprofits.
PBN: In October, the United Way and Serve Rhode Island announced a partnership to help donors get involved in community service. What are the kinds of things this partnership has helped make happen?
MAIONE: Volunteerism at United Way is up by 30 percent. Our partnership with Serve Rhode Island has allowed us to help companies develop specific volunteer opportunities, such as days of service in the community. Companies are supporting volunteerism as another way to meet their social responsibility and have their employees feel more engaged in the local nonprofit community. As a state we can do a lot more, but we are seeing some movement here at United Way.
PBN: From your perspective, which area of the state’s nonprofit sector needs the most help right now?
MAIONE: We have our eye on the federal budget right now. Our state has been struggling to meet human service needs for some time, and now we know that the federal budget is also going to be cut. As these cuts roll out in 2013, agencies that are reliant on a lot of federal support will be challenged even further to meet the needs of those that they serve. Private resources cannot make up the difference, so leaders across all sectors will have to think and act differently to handle the growth in short-term need without losing sight of long-term solutions.