William Way LGBT Center lays out recession plan at annual meeting

About 30 people gathered at the William Way LGBT Community Center Dec. 13 for the organization’s annual meeting, in which the center’s staff and supporters looked back at the previous year’s accomplishments and challenges and discussed how the center can continue to succeed in tough economic times this coming year.

During the meeting, center members voted to elect the three board members who were up for reelection — Emilie Carr, David Michelson and board co-chair Ted Greenberg — along with a new addition to the board, Moira Mulroney.

Before delving into a review of the center’s progress in 2008, ’Dolph Ward Goldenburg, executive director, paid tribute to the City of Brotherly Love Softball League, which recently provided the center with a $5,000 contribution, which he said will help with the organization’s outreach efforts.

In the past year, the center brought in about $603,995 and spent $568,064, leaving it with a balance of $35,931.

The majority of the center’s revenue came from individual donations, which totaled $217,499.

“We live and die by the individuals who give us money,” Goldenburg said during the meeting. “Without the individuals in this room, and a thousand more folks like you, the center would simply not exist.”

Goldenburg detailed the fiscal-year 2009 budget that the board passed, which was 5-percent lower than last year’s budget. The budget projects that the center will bring in about $547,615 this fiscal year and will spend $544,590.

“We passed a low budget because this is a time for us to be cautious and conservative and make sure that our organization is able to thrive in the next year in the recession,” Goldenburg said.

He noted that even though the National Bureau of Economic Research announced only a few weeks ago that the country was officially in a recession, the center noticed an economic downturn starting last February, when it only brought in about $1,000 in donations that month; the center typically receives about $18,000 in donations every month.

“It was like we were standing at a faucet and the water just stopped,” he said. “It cost a lot of sleepless nights for myself and the board members. As an organization, we’ve known for nine or 10 months that we’re in a recession. The world is changing and so we must change.”

To begin to cope with the economic slump, the center consolidated two director-level positions, combining the responsibilities of the former director of programs and director of front-desk operations into the director of center services.

Goldenburg noted that the center aggressively pursued individual donors this past year, which he said helped to expand the donor base by 10 percent.

The organization also looked for simple ways to scale back spending, such as purchasing more affordable brands of toilet paper and installing timers on the building’s heating units.

In the coming year, the center plans to step up its fundraising efforts even further. Goldenburg said that every member of the center’s professional staff has also been asked to raise a portion of his or her salary, and that the center will send out more than 60,000 direct-mail requests for contributions. Many of the donation requests will also be targeted to a specific program or project so that contributors will be able to better understand where their money is going.

Mike Nuno, the organization’s new development coordinator, in the past year has submitted the most grant requests the center has ever seen, and he will continue to flood foundations with requests this year. Goldenburg noted that even if the center isn’t chosen for all of the grants, the increased amount of requests helps to solidify the center’s name in philanthropic circles.

Goldenburg said the organization is also working to develop systems to analyze the effectiveness of its programs and services so that the center can demonstrate to potential funders why they should invest in it.

One of the center’s ongoing projects, the construction of an elevator, also got underway this year. The city provided the center a $350,000 grant for the construction of an elevator in the building, but the entire project is projected to cost about $500,000.

Goldenburg said the center chose to proceed with the construction so that it did not lose the city money and that it plans to make up the shortfall by pursuing state and foundation grants as well as through a car raffle over the next several months.

Goldenburg noted that, even though all of the center’s supporters are affected by the nation’s sinking economy, he’s optimistic that they will continue to support an organization that is committed to supporting them.

“I kind of feel that the center will become even more meaningful to the community in the recession,” he said. “When people’s pockets are pinched, they look for low-cost and no-cost ways to have fun and get their needs met, and the center offers a number of ways to do that. I feel like we’ll be even more relevant and meaningful to our members and community members over the next year.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected]