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The economic turmoil that has severely impacted the nation’s financial health hasn’t spared the nonprofit sector, including the Children’s Miracle Network and the Credit Unions for Kids campaign. As an industry, charitable organizations are down 9% to 12% in fundraising from 2008, forcing many to slash jobs and services. In extreme cases, some nonprofits have shuttered their doors, creating a crisis for individuals and families who have relied on these organizations to weather the downturn in the economy. Children’s Miracle Network is certainly not immune to the challenges facing the industry- including a round of layoffs earlier this year that cut the workforce by 8%. However, the organization has fared better than most largely because of its solid financial position and fundraising philosophy. Since its inception in 1983, Children’s Miracle Network has operated as a grassroots fundraising organization relying on small donations through corporate campaigns, special events and television and radio station partnerships. This dollar at a time strategy has allowed Children’s Miracle Network to avoid many of the problems now facing nonprofits that rely heavily on annual giving or major gifts to fund their operations. In addition, the importance of Children’s Miracle Network and its member children’s hospitals is not lost on the community at large. This year alone, the 170 children’s hospitals in the network will treat 17 million kids for every imaginable illness or injury, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. In 2008, these hospitals provided a staggering $3 billion in uncompensated or charity care, a number that has increased significantly this year as more and more families experience layoffs and the loss of health insurance coverage. As the burden upon our children’s hospitals mounts, Children’s Miracle Network has seen a remarkable response from the public and its fundraising partners. While other nonprofits experience a sharp downturn in donations, Children’s Miracle Network is projecting only a 5% drop in funds for 2009. While the results of this year’s campaign weren’t entirely unexpected, it still comes as a disappointment, given the organization’s run of 25 straight years with double-digit growth. Just as the Children’s Miracle Network national campaign suffered a setback this year, so did the Credit Unions for Kids program. Coming off an impressive 15% increase in 2008, credit union fundraising is projected to be down 4% to 5% in 2009. Despite the temporary hiccup in fundraising, the commitment on behalf of the credit union movement has never wavered. Even though credit unions are facing unprecedented challenges and could be excused for choosing a diminished role, they have instead stepped forward to assume a leadership position among Children’s Miracle Network’s corporate partners. Leaders from throughout the movement are actively working in tandem with the Children’s Miracle Network national staff to develop the infrastructure that will ensure long-term growth of the Credit Unions for Kids program. And it doesn’t stop there. Almost every entity in the credit union community has enthusiastically embraced the cause. CO-OP Financial Services has established the Miracle Match program, which provides a million dollars in matching funds annually; the Credit Union Association of Oregon developed many of the best practices now employed by leagues and associations throughout the country; CUNA, which was instrumental in helping introduce the program in 1996, continues to provide resources and support; the nine-member Credit Unions for Kids National Advisory Board offers leadership and counsel; Credit Union Times supports the awareness campaign through the in-kind donation of ad space; and Tom Sargent, CEO/President of First Tech Credit Union of Portland, Ore., serves on the Children’s Miracle Network Board of Trustees. Locally, credit union leaders have answered the call to serve on hospital boards and Credit Unions for Kids advisory committees, thereby expanding the influence of the credit union movement in communities throughout the country. This outpouring of support is all the more amazing considering it has occurred during the most tumultuous period in the history of the movement. At a time when others might have wilted under the pressure, the credit union community has excelled and demonstrated once again the true meaning of “people helping people.”

Peter Westerman

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