In selecting its Top 5 and Bottom 5 lists, the Scene examined only financial and administrative data. The mission or philosophy of the agencies was not considered.
To be included among the Top 5, agencies had to have all state and city permits; up-to-date financial records (with supporting documents, such as an audit); a clean bill of health from national watchdog agencies such as the American Institute of Philanthropy and the National Charities Information Bureau; and a balanced budget. Agencies such as BURNT, Organized Neighbors of Edgehill, and the Mark Collie Foundation rank high in percentages spent for programs, but they did not make the Top 5 list because they did not show a balanced budget for the fiscal year under consideration.
Agencies were consigned to the Bottom 5 list, at least in part, because of their percentages. Other negative factors included spending $75,000 or more for non-charitable purposes, failure to inform donors about how contributions would be used, and low scores from national watchdog groups.
MANNA 1617 16th Ave. S. 37212 (650-9925)
Total revenue: $1,939,597
Program budget: $1,912,028
Percent spent on programs: 98.58
When MANNA recently held its annual dinner, there was no hotel ballroom; there were no lavish, full-color invitations. Board members and volunteers made vegetable lasagna, baked cookies, and served the dinner at a United Methodist church.
MANNA’s employees don’t work in very snazzy surroundings either. The director, food stamp outreach coordinator, and Families First educator work out of one room in a cramped office.
But last year the group administered federal funds that provided daily nutritious lunches to 3,000 low-income children in daycare homes, helped 250 families regain or obtain food stamps, and led training sessions to educate 560 low-income families about the workings of Gov. Don Sundquist’s Families First program.
Ask executive director Dale Gray what makes MANNA so efficient at turning donations into action in the community, and she points to her staff and volunteers. “We have people who are dedicated. People who work hard and work a lot extra. A very active board that does the development and fund-raising.”
Grace M. Eaton Child Care and Parent Resource Center 1708 Pearl 37203 (329-3341)
Total revenue: $517,343
Program budget: $479,336
Percent spent on programs: 92.65
Started in 1926, Grace M. Eaton provides daycare for 120 children from low-income families. With a small staff, everyone does a little of everything. The office manager is also the school secretary, answering phone calls from parents and creating classroom materials. Executive director Joyce Hyde makes a salary of less than $45,000 but handles administration as well as teacher training and supervision and other classroom activities.
“The primary activity is giving the very best care of children,” Hyde says. “My job is to make sure classroom management is professional as well as loving and caring. We cannot charge what it costs to care for children this way.”
People First of Tennessee Inc. 855 WestCollege, Unit D, Murfreesboro
Total revenue: $219,243
Program budget: $199,762
Percent spent on programs: 91.11
Most Nashvillians know about People First because of a federal lawsuit the agency filed because of conditions at Arlington Developmental Center and other state-run centers for people with disabilities. But lawsuits are not the primary mission of People First, which helps its clients lead more independent lives and advocates for changes in institutions, group homes, and public policy.
“We do grassroots empowerment, build leadership capacity, promote desegregation and community inclusion, and, finally, we are involved in affordable public transportation for all Tennesseans who cannot drive and live in poverty,” Ruthie Marie Beckwith, staff advisor, says.
People First holds meetings at least once a month for 1,100 clients in 32 chapters across Tennessee. That workload, not to mention state and regional conferences, advocacy, and educational programs, would not be possible with just four employees. The remainder is done by People First members.
NashvilleREAD Inc. 421 Great Circle Rd.
Total revenue: $1,204,015
Program budget: $1,095,465
Percent spent on programs: 90.98
NashvilleREAD currently provides adult-education classes for 314 students; tutors 200 children in a family literacy program; teaches writing, reading, and math in local businesses; and collaborates in a literacy-through-the-arts project. The 14-person full-time staff is augmented by 15 Americorps volunteers, one VISTA volunteer, and five part-time teachers.
“We spread ourselves really thin. We are short staffed when it comes to support services,” Carol Thigpin, executive director, says, adding that a range of services is made possible through collaborations with other programs. “We network,” Thigpin explains.
Ladies of Charity Welfare Agency
2212 State St. 37203 (327-3430)
Total revenue: $198,663
Program budget: $179,375
Percent spent on programs: 90.29
Last year alone, Ladies of Charity Welfare Agency provided $179,375 in food, clothing, or emergency financial assistance to 2,001 single parents, 1,076 unemployed people, 931 people with disabilities, and 286 seniorsall with no management or fund-raising expenses.
That’s because Welfare Agency Executive Director, Terri Puma, has worked for more than 25 years for free. The program’s sister agency, Ladies of Charity of Nashville, runs a thrift store and donates much of the proceeds to the agency. There are only two paid case managers. There is no paid support staff.\
Rotary Clubs of Donelson/Hermitage, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, and Murfreesboro Breakfast Clubs of Tennessee 660 A St., P.O. Box 671
Smyrna 37167 (321-2302)
Total income: $306,054
Program budget: $1,500
Percent spent on programs: .49
The Rotary Clubs sponsor the Tennessee Aviation Days Air Shows. In 1995, flying acts alone cost the Rotary Clubs $111,000. Souvenir programs, show production, temporary services, and the like brought the cost up to $314,628. All that would have been fine, except for one thingit rained. An anticipated attendance of 100,000 turned into ticket sales of fewer than 18,000.
Low attendence meant a net loss for the group and no money for charity. Since then, Rotary Clubs have regrouped and say they will only hold another event if they can hold expenses in check.
Springhouse Golf Classic Corporation18 Springhouse Ln. 37214 (871-7888)
Total income: $4,915,150
Contribution to charity: $150,000
Percent to charity: 3.05
The Springhouse Golf Classic, better known as the BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland, spends more to give away less than any other special event in Middle Tennessee. And that’s just fine, in the opinion of Lew Conner, a member of the executive committee for the tournament and chairman of the Tennessee Golf Foundation. Staging the tournament is “about bringing the magnificent sport of golf to Nashville. For this city, for all of its people, there is absolutely a very intrinsic benefit,” he says.
Since it has not-for-profit status, the Springhouse tournament pays no taxes. By contrast, the Sara Lee Classic, a professional women’s golf event, is run as a for-profit venture and pays taxes.
The board of the Springhouse event consists mainly of Gaylord executives. Nevertheless, the event pays full price for use of Gaylord facilities, including the golf course, the General Jackson Showboat, television production facilities, and parking lots. As a result, Gaylord receives more than twice the amount given to charity.
Resource Foundation 212 Capitol Blvd. 32719 (251-0025)
Program budget: $413,244
Percent spent on programs: 22.69
In 1995, the Resource Foundation provided information on affordable housing to 2,000 individuals, assisted 42 families to purchase their first home, and graduated 72 people from a home-ownership counseling class. “Most went on to purchase their own homes through THDA financing,” says executive director E. D. Latimer.
The program rents 115 apartments to people earning as little as $5,000 per year and is planning construction of 72 low-cost apartments in Portland and 112 more in Murfreesboro.
But the foundation wound up near the bottom of the Scene’s list because of one problem: $2.5 million in debt on an apartment complex that was financed on a bond issue. With so much debt service on the books, the foundation encountered problems borrowing money to finance other property. In 1996 the property was sold to an out-of-state not-for-profit. As a result, Latimer predicts audited figures for that year will show “program expenses at 63 percent, which we are very comfortable with.”
American Legion 215 Eighth Ave. N. 37203 (254-0568)
Total income: $696,704
Program budget: $146,751
Percent spent on programs: 21.06
Suggest to Mike Hammer, state adjutant, that the American Legion might be spending too much on administration and you’ll have a war on your hands. The American Legion visits nursing homes and veterans’ hospitals and runs annual Americanism programs, including the Boys’ State mock government program.
Hammer argues vehemently that the Legion’s high administrative costs are simply a matter of inaccurate accounting. He contends that $14,532 paid to board members should be considered program expenses because the funds were spent, in part, on travel reimbursement and other expenses directly related to Legion programs. Another $26,000 in wages could be considered program expenditures because they were paid to employees who spent a portion of their time supporting program activities, he says.
“Everything we do indirectly supports programs,” Hammer says.
DBC Nashville Community Services Inc.
506 Second Ave. S., P.O. Box 101604 37202
Total income: $100,107
Program budget: $20,949
Percent spent on programs: 20.93
When WKDF-FM puts on its annual Edge of the Cumberland Concert, almost 100 percent of “the proceeds” go to charity. The same is true of the Rock With Santa event sponsored by sister station WGFX-FM. Cindy Francis, promotions and marketing director for both stations, says WKDF and WGFX donate all on-air promotional time, the concert producer gives them a good deal, and on-air talent appear at the events at no cost. Nobody at the stations makes a dime off the concerts, Francis says.
But 100 percent of “proceeds” means the amount left after the bills are paid. Charities receive about 20 percent of the gross amount raised.
Still, alternative rockers get their own festival-style rock concert, 104 children in foster care get holiday gifts, and anti-violence programs get some cash.
This has been true for years. Tennessee couldn't balance its budget without federal dollars.
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