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Local nonprofits face more challenges as economy slows



Oklahoma ranks second in the nation in generosity, according to a six-year study conducted by NewTithing Group, a philanthropic research organization, which released the figures in 2006.

The state's more than 18,000 nonprofit organizations depend on this giving spirit, but even with the support, heads of local groups say they're not immune to the challenges that plague charitable organizations in other states, including:
" economic downturns,
" political and social factors, and
" accountability issues.

"We certainly see it when the economy goes up or down," said Erin Brewer, vice president of marketing at United Way of Central Oklahoma. "So much of our fund raising is tied to donors who give at their offices that when employment statistics change, we certainly see that."

The local and national economic climate affects nonprofits no matter what their focus. At the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, economic conditions are not only increasing demand for the organization's services, but also increasing its cost to help residents.

"We're one of the few states in the country where the poverty rate has actually increased over the last five years as opposed to decreased, and childhood hunger has gone up, too. It's especially prevalent in the rural areas," said Rodney Bivens, founder and executive director of the food bank, which serves 53 counties in central and western Oklahoma.

Private foundations also feel the impact.

"Private foundations, by law, distribute 5 percent of their assets annually, so depending upon market rates, there could be a fluctuation that could then affect our giving," said Susan McCalmont, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation. "Lea Terry

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