Eric Harnage has his hands full as he dances a slow dance with his two young daughters, Morgan and Emily, during a former Daddy Daughter Dance at the Albany Civic Center.
ALBANY, Ga. -- With many Americans slowly emerging from a post-spending daze following the Christmas season, many local charities and nonprofits will kick off their 2013 fundraising efforts in earnest soon, hoping to cash in on what some say is an improving economy and the kindness of others.
The United Way of Albany, Mission:Change, Girls Inc., and others each have fundraisers looming as nonprofit charitable organizations begin the tight-rope walking that is often associated with asking people for money.
Girls Inc., in conjunction with the Girl Scouts of Southwest Georgia and the Flint River Habitat for Humanity, will host its annual Daddy/Daughter Dance Friday, an event that is one of that organization's signature fundraisers each year, at the Albany Civic Center.
Sherrell Alexander, the executive director for Girls Inc. -- an organization that works to empower girls through mentoring and character building -- said fundraising is a challenge in a community with such high poverty, but that the generosity of those who do have the means to give is often overwhelming.
Girls Inc. also has a silent auction and wine-tasting event set for March.
Locally, Albany has more than 278 nonprofit charitable organizations listed on the IRS.gov website, making fundraising extremely competitive within the city as organizations compete for every dollar.
However, Albany is known for its willingness to give. In a report published last year in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Albany metro area was listed as having the highest giving percentage in the state with residents giving, on average, 8.4 percent of their discretionary income to charities.
LaDonna Urick, the executive director of Mission:Change, a local nonprofit that works to eradicate homelessness in Albany, said that people continue to be generous to her organization despite their own personal challenges, often because they know the money stays in the local community.
"It is so important to us for everyone to participate in this awesome way to give back because the funds go directly back into our community to serve those in need," Urick said. "This ranges from our elderly who are shut-ins with no family, to our underserved youth, our food-insecure community as well as our homeless neighbors.
"Without the help from our community, we cannot do what we do. It takes funds, time, and organizing to make things happen, so we rely heavily on our volunteers and folks in our city to jump right in and participate in great ways like Ruby Tuesday's Gives Back."
Urick said Mission:Change has partnered with Ruby Tuesday's for a fundraiser Saturday in which 20 percent of all proceeds earned that day from patrons who bring in a special flyer will go to Mission:Change.
The flyer may be downloaded and printed at AlbanyHerald.com or the Herald's facebook page at facebook.com/albanyherald.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, public charities reported more than $1.15 trillion in total revenues and $1.45 trillion in total expenses in 2010. And while that information is staggering, officials say that most small charities that start up each year don't survive.
One local nonprofit that is hanging on by a thread is the Flint RiverQuarium. After just eliminating its CEO position as a cost-cutting measure, the RiverQuarium is in the midst of its own fundraiser -- selling turtles for its annual turtle race -- hoping to generate interest and revenues to keep the doors open.
More than 5,000 plastic turtles will go down the fountain at the RiverQuarium, rewarding the winner with a $5,000 prize.
Turtles may be adopted for $5 each.
LaKisha Bryant, executive director of the United Way of Southwest Georgia, said her organization is ramping up its 2013 fundraising campaign season as well after ending its 2012 campaign in December.
"The end of the year is the closeout of our traditional campaign season. So for us, our contribution stream is a little different. We're getting payroll deduction paperwork and people sending in checks," Bryant said. "Like most nonprofits, we see contributions coming in at the end of the year as people are wanting to make those last minute contributions. However, our funding cycle for that campaign doesn't let us start using those funds in January. We won't start using those funds until July.
"But to know that the income is helping you reach your goals means that when the fiscal year starts you are starting out in the black and not the red. That's always good for any organization."
Bryant said that while her organization brings in a large chunk of its revenues at the end of the year, nonprofits require almost steady, year-round support, especially when, as hers does, the organization extends beyond just one city or county.
"Organizations need fiscal support all year, so just because it's not the fourth quarter doesn't mean that your donation won't be impactful -- it will be at any time that it's given. And when you support the United Way, you're supporting 27 partner agencies and programs in the Southwest Georgia area. So a little bit goes a long way," Bryant said.
The United Way of Southwest Georgia will officially kick off its spring fundraising efforts on March 29 with its Day of Caring event.