I often assess the passing year as the new one approaches. I have mixed feelings about 2009. The start of the year, like the second half of 2008, was really scary at the RFC. The country was in financial melt-down, people were losing their jobs, and that had ominous implications for our fund raising prospects as the year progressed. We also knew that whatever the new administration did (and it sure hasn’t been much!) the legacy of the Bush era repression would not evaporate overnight and that many of our beneficiary families would be even more vulnerable during what promised to be a very deep recession.
As the year progressed our fears eased. We could see that our donors were struggling. People were incredibly committed, but many simply couldn’t afford to give what they had in previous years. However, the drop off was not precipitous, and others who had the wherewithal stepped into the breech and gave even more. I’ve never felt prouder of our community which displayed both compassion and astuteness.
And many of our beneficiaries were just as high-minded. They were in dire straights, but a number of them actually REDUCED their requests so that there would be more available to others. I suppose we should not have been surprised by the community spirit of our beneficiaries, but it was still incredibly moving.
Our donors’ generosity complemented by our beneficiaries’ selflessness carried us through the difficult year. We cut our granting budget by 20% from $400,000 in 2008 to $320,000. Cancelling our 2009 Carry it Forward Gathering accounted for $35,000 of this $80,000 decrease. It hurt to do this, but it was the only way we could continue to provide at least some support to all the children of targeted activists who applied and fell within our guidelines.
It could have been tragic if we had been forced to slash another $45,000, but we didn’t have to. Whether at RFC parties, events, or in response to our mailings and newsletters, so many people stepped up with extraordinary support that we were able to award $35,000 more than we had projected (almost $355,000). So we only had to trim an additional $10,000 from the more than 160 grants we awarded this year. That’s only a little over $60/grant!
I can’t adequately express how relieved the RFC staff and Board felt at having this painful task cut down to a more manageable size.
So we enter 2010 somewhat the worse for wear, but we can savor the bright spots. We had to work harder and will still slip back a little… but only a little. We’re not nearly as scared as we were a year ago, but I wonder how much of that is because we’ve gotten used to rough times.
I’m tracking the response to our year-end letter now. It is our biggest single source of annual support. We’re doing OK, but not quite as well as last year. As we look to 2010 we’ll just keep plugging away as hard as we can. I’ve always been in it for the long haul and knowing the entire RFC community is with me, our staff, our Board and the children we support, is what keeps me going.
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