What if we close our doors?
It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Monday and the phone at Love INC of Albuquerque just keeps ringing. We can’t afford to be open. We weren’t open on Friday either. It’s the reality of having an annual budget of less than $150,000. There isn’t enough funding to pay staff to work 5 days a week. No one, myself included, was hired in a full-time capacity. So, we do the best we can. We grind on week after week, trying to meet as many needs as we can, though just a fraction of our callers make it all the way from intake to getting needed resources.
In the Connection Center, conversation revolves around two of our key volunteers, who are likely relocating out of Albuquerque. The impact of their absence will be profound. Scheduling home visits, furniture pickup and donation processing is based on the availability of volunteers, and lining it all up becomes a weekly juggling act of its own.
Making my way downstairs, I see the weariness on the face of the Distribution Center Manager, who has no room left for the donation of furniture that has come in. We need the donations to meet the needs of the clients, but we don’t have the space to store them. We need warehouse space but can’t afford it. So, couches stand on end and tables get stacked three high.
The few volunteers who are in the building face their own challenges. Very few are under the age of 60, and many of them have physical limitations from age or injury. There is no elevator in our building, and it’s difficult to look at the pain on the faces of those whose bodies don’t handle stairs well.
That’s just the way it is. It’s hard. Every day. Yet the mission of helping hurting families keeps us pushing forward. Hearing the report of families eating together because they received a table and chairs is a joy. Knowing that through Love INC classes someone’s life has been changed for the better is a delight.
So, when news continues to report a decline in givers, there is great reason for concern. To quote the article from the Washington Examiner (linked above): “The health of smaller, community-based charities that depend on broad-based giving is especially at risk.”
Over the past few months, there have been hard conversations around our boardroom table. How to stay afloat, how to make a lasting impact, and how to be a good steward of what we have are all topics that occupy much time in prayer and discussion. During times of desperation, a hopeless utterance of “Should we even stay open?” may have escaped my lips.
This question is a vitally important one. What happens if we do close our doors? What impact would it make if we didn’t get the financial and volunteer support we need to operate and no longer existed? It’s hard to answer this question with any degree of certainty. I could tell you that the 20 to 30 phone intakes we do each week wouldn’t happen. The 10+ weekly home visits we provide would stop. The 7 to 10 families that receive furniture and household goods each week would need to find assistance elsewhere. There wouldn’t be Affirming Potential or any other Love INC-sponsored classes. Powerful prayers and times of ministry wouldn’t happen in our parking lot each Saturday.
I would argue that the disappearance of Love INC, as well as other small community-based charities, would make a big negative impact on our city. After all, will the government help someone find a couch, a bed, a hot meal or a rehabilitation/reintegration program? Not likely.
So what is to be done?
First, choose to care. I will be honest enough to say that before I worked for Love INC, I knew of dozens of local nonprofits but didn’t really give them a second thought. Now that I’m neck deep in the work that we do, I see the amazing role played by leaders across the city who receive meager compensation (if any) for their blood, sweat, and tears.
Secondly, give. Your money is needed, without a doubt. I know of very few of our sister organizations that are receiving grant money or help from the government.
Lastly, invest yourself. Volunteering 4 hours a month could make an enormous impact to the organization that you choose to serve. Employers, would you consider allowing your employees to stay on your clock for 4 hours monthly as they serve a local nonprofit?
The landscape does seem bleak at times, but nothing will change if people do nothing to make an impact outside of their own lives. It’s time to consider how you could be part of the solution that just may keep a nonprofit from closing its doors.