Funding cuts for social services: How agencies serving the poor survive
Heft LaPorte, Heidi Leah
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This study explores the impact of shifts in government social welfare spending policies on Community-Based Organizations serving low income populations. The principal research design employed was a qualitative two wave panel study using a cross case analysis approach. The six agencies included in the study, three Domestic Violence Agencies and three Community Action Agencies, were part of a larger five year study (from 1981 to 1986) conducted by Justin Fink (1991). These agencies were re-examined in 1995 and again in 1997 to assess how nonprofit human service organizations serving the poor survive in the face of diminishing resources. A detailed personal interview schedule (Gronbjerg, 1990) was used to measure how well these organizations maintained a primary poverty orientation and to explore whether decisions regarding target population and service needs were resource or needs driven.;The findings of this study attest to the resilience of nonprofit human service agencies. All six agencies survived massive funding cuts for social welfare programs during the Reagan Administration. Further, all six agencies maintained a primary poverty orientation. Low income populations were the primary client constituency of these agencies. Strategies employed by these agencies in order to survive included: mission focus, avoiding chasing funds; becoming a lead agency within their geographic areas; building coalitions with other agencies to secure funding, eliminate duplication of services and enhance service efficiency for new programs; networking with others in the nonprofit community and with government agency representatives and potential funders; emphasizing board leadership and development; cultivation of volunteers as vital resources within the agencies; finding ways to retain and upgrade staff by enhancing reasons for good people to stay; and shifting advocacy orientation from broad and global to time limited, focused and goal directed activities.