New Life

Page 10 of 12

Maloney also thinks CAP needs to get creative about attracting new contributors. "We need to think of new ways to raise money," she says. "We're going to have a new fundraiser this year -- a golf tournament -- and we're researching other grants and trying to think of other businesses to reach out to."

The Spin

While Maloney acknowledges CAP's past mistakes, she and past board president Tom Buche and new board president Terence Shea attribute their funding woes more to the public's perception about AIDS. They blame complacency about the epidemic, along with the fact that AIDS is no longer a media darling.

"In the mid-1990s, we were in our heyday with regard to AIDS awareness," she says. "That was when everyone in Hollywood wore red ribbons. It was a politically correct cause. People think that as time goes on, awareness goes up, but that's not the case. A lot of people are tired of hearing about AIDS. Every cause has its time in the limelight, and since AIDS isn't in the limelight anymore, it's hurt us. Funding nationally for AIDS-related services has gone down 20 percent."

In addition, the red ribbon seems to have been replaced with the pink ribbon as breast cancer has become the disease of the month, Maloney points out. If the amount of money raised for this year's Race for the Cure is any indication, she's right. The Denver affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- a national nonprofit that raises money for screenings and treatment for low-income women as well as breast cancer research and education -- raised approximately $2.3 million from the race this year, and the checks are still coming in, says Nancy Olson, the local affiliate's executive director. Last year's race raised $2.1 million. That increase was especially significant considering that this year's race was held less than a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Denver affiliate, which has been holding races for nine years, had to stop publicity for the event for ten days as a result of the nonstop media coverage of the attacks.

A national study of philanthropic organizations conducted by New York-based nonprofit Funders Concerned About AIDS confirms that donations have indeed decreased for many organizations like CAP. From 1996 to 1997, philanthropic giving for organizations providing HIV- and AIDS-prevention education, treatment and research, went from $37 million to $30 million, a 19 percent decrease, while philanthropic giving overall increased more than 15 percent during that same period, according to the study, titled Philanthropy and AIDS: Assessing the Past, Shaping the Future.

The reasons funders gave for the decrease in contributions were varied: Some chose to give less to AIDS organizations in favor of funding the broader health-care system; some felt they hadn't seen the results they'd hoped for; others said that because of the numerous requests for their support, they'd expanded their giving to other causes. One private foundation explained, "After ten years of giving, we felt that if we had to exit a program, this would be the one. It is sort of a 'been there, done that' mentality. As the epidemic has become more and more linked to issues of poverty, it is not so clear that it is a 'scientific' problem to solve."

AIDS service organizations offered their own assumptions for the decline in giving. "People with HIV don't look as much like grant makers as they used to. Higher numbers of people with AIDS are impoverished, substance-abusing, mentally ill, homeless -- populations that foundations have difficulty impacting. AIDS is now combined with many complex social issues -- this is too difficult for foundations to address," one HIV/AIDS funding collaborative stated.

Some nonprofits looked inward for answers. "HIV/AIDS organizations themselves admit that 'we in the community did a really bad job in engaging philanthropy.' They cite ongoing leadership changes and relative instability as significant barriers to engaging philanthropy consistently over time," the study found.

A Midwest AIDS service organization said, "They (philanthropy) are saying, 'We want innovation, we want new things.' As the epidemic changes, most of it is just taking old programs and switching populations. Old programs for new populations may not be innovation for funders, but it is what is needed."

Funders Concerned About Aids has since followed up with another study, completed earlier this year, which shows the dip in philanthropic giving leveling off and, in some cases, rising again. About 40 percent of the funders included in the study reported that their HIV/AIDS funding had stayed the same, while 25 percent reported an increase.

In Colorado, there has been a general decrease in giving to HIV/AIDS organizations because of the economy, but none of the groups have experienced the drop CAP has. The Boulder County AIDS Project has seen a 10 percent decrease in attendance at fundraising events and is anticipating a budget shortfall in the next fiscal year.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon

Latest Stories