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Charlotte Area

Community leaders call for nonprofit consolidation, collaboration

Mecklenburg County residents donated more than two-and-a-half million dollars to a temporary fund for food, shelter and clothing needs over the winter. That fund made its final grants yesterday to groups that will shelter homeless children during the summer break. Now, local officials say the difficult work begins. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The Critical Need Response Fund raised more money than organizers expected. The Fund's leader - County Manager Harry Jones - says it was able to ensure that no one was turned away from Mecklenburg County's food pantries and homeless shelters over the winter. But now the fund is gone and Jones says local nonprofits must find a new way to meet more needs with less money. "The model that needs to work is out there in the private sector," says Jones. "Think about construction companies that have consolidated. Think about real estate companies that have consolidated. What they're saying is that our very survival depends on us collaborating." Jones believes the recession will transform Charlotte's nonprofit sector. High profile scandals have already heightened scrutiny of nonprofits. Michael Marsicano of the Foundation for the Carolinas says the coming months will require a different type of accountability. "You can have two or three, four five or six agencies in the nonprofit sector who are highly credible and accountable, but that doesn't mean in the new economic reality the new accountability isn't that there should be two or three instead of five or six," says Marsicano. "It's a different way of looking at accountability than whether folks use money well or not." Nonprofit consolidation may also mean fewer nonprofit jobs in Mecklenburg County. Agencies that rely on umbrella fundraisers like the United Way and Arts and Science Council have already begun budget and staff cuts in anticipation of much smaller grants from those organizations.