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Greenwich Donors Keep Human Services Afloat

Though mid-level donations have dropped off, those giving at lower levels have stepped in to fill the void, nonprofit organizations say.

As donor dollars are spread more thinly in this down economy, Greenwich nonprofit organizations have seen a decline among mid-level donors and a tendency among some benefactors to focus on groups to which they feel the strongest connection, social services leaders say.

The financial market mostly has affected donors at the $2,500 to $5,000 range, according to Jim Vivier, vice president of . The Greenwich-based nonprofit organization offers education and human services to lower Fairfield County's children, adults and families. While the number of mid-level donors has decreased, donations at $10,000 and more have remained steady, Vivier said.

"Folks who have been supporters to us and committed to us have continued to support us," he said.

In a town rich in human services, competition for those supporters is strong. According to the Internal Revenue Service, there are 289 nonprofit organizations and charities in Greenwich, Cos Cob, Riverside and Old Greenwich that are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Even so, as a lingering recession challenges many nonprofit organizations across the nation, hindering their ability to deliver services, donor dollars in Greenwich continue to buoy local groups.

Vivier said he's most impressed to see an increase in people donating between $500 and $1,000 — perhaps a result, he said, of people taking to heart what they're seeing of the economy's impact on neighbors, co-workers and friends.

Donors are "overwhelmingly" still around, said Stuart Adelberg, president of the , a nonprofit organization that not only raises funds for human services groups but also takes a lead role in assessing community needs and developing plans to address them.

"There are certainly a number of donors that are not able to give what they once did, but they are continuing to give at a decreased level," Adelberg told Patch.

Organizations are doing everything they can to provide services, but they really need the help, he added.

"Every source of revenue, from government support, to endowments, to charitable contributions, and to foundation grants have shrunk," he said.

Nonprofits in Greenwich have suffered a "perfect storm" the past three years, Adelberg said, as demands for services have increased while the number of new donors has dropped off. Groups have been forced to make cutbacks and as they adhere to more conservative budgets, he said.

"Nonprofits are seeing, in general, that our direct mail fundraising is down across the board," Tonette Cookson, director of development and communications for the .

New ways to raise money are emerging.

For example, Cookson described the American Red Cross' "Text to Help" program that allows people to donate $25 by texting the word "Gift" to 90999.

Adelberg, Cookson and Vivier agreed that the people of Greenwich have been essential in helping them reach their donation goals.

"The bottom line is we live in a very generous community and we really should be thankful for everything we do get," Vivier said.

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