When Charlotte-based Thompson Child & Family Focus held its annual fundraiser last year, the nonprofit told supporters a sobering tale of its annual funding gap hitting the $4 million mark.
This year’s fundraiser, set Thursday at the Westin hotel, will deliver better news: The gap has been cut in half.
Thompson’s budget went from $21 million to $15 million in the process. Yet its programs still helped 12,716 children and families, which is up by a few hundred. The agency also saw a record 10 adoptions in its foster care program.
However, the cut backs haven’t been easy, says Thompson President Mary Jo Powers. Federal and state dollars for programs that help extremely abused children are being re-purposed. In the process, money for long-term residential treatment for such children – something Thompson had specialized in – has been reduced drastically.
On Thursday, Powers will tell the 600 attendees that Thompson is adjusting to a new normal that includes a 13 percent cut in staffing and 9 percent cut in administrative expenses. The annual luncheon raised $600,000 last year, which also helped close the funding gap. The event has raised $7.5 million over 13 years.
“We changed business models, closed some programs, partnered with other programs and as a result, we are in a much better place,” says Powers. “In the nonprofit world, there’s always struggle for funding. ... I think we’re on a course to full recovery.”
Thompson has a history of changing to fit the times. It was born 130 years ago as an orphanage and evolved in the ’70s to offer psychiatric residential care for children who had been badly abused.
The agency began shifting yet again last year, when it started reducing the number of residential beds it kept for abused children from 42 to 24. And instead of such children staying in care for nine to 12 months, the state is now pushing for them to be out in 30 to 90 days.
This means three of the cottages on the Thompson’s campus in Matthews sit empty. “Sadly, nonprofits have to be run like a business and you can’t run a business with this kind of a funding gap,” says Powers.
Thompson is also focusing on preventative programs, that seek to help children and parents resolve issues before trouble erupts in the home. Among the best known of those programs is a child development center on Clanton Road, which has 163 students.
The stakes are high, say experts, with five children dying from abuse and neglect each day in America.
Peggy Eagan of Mecklenburg County’s Department of Social Services says it’s a difficult time for nonprofits working with children, particularly with changing funding streams.
Further complicating matters, she said, is a growing number of children who need help for multiple issues.
“Thompson is one of the more strategic organizations out there... They are interested now in preventative services, which means they can help children and families before they get into a crisis.”