Nonprofits Ignore Town’s Request for Voluntary Contributions

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February 24, 2011; Source: | It's hard to imagine that Concord, Mass. officials are truly surprised that nonprofits aren't responding to invitations to make voluntary contributions in lieu of paying taxes on property they own. Yet, so far, only three of 34 nonprofits have sent any money that the town says would help balance its budget.

Despite so few takers, some of the town's selectmen say they aren't giving up and at least one says he has seen a "glimmer of hope from some groups," according to “I haven’t been successful with anybody,’’ said Jeffrey Wieand, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “But I’ve talked to people who are at least thinking about it.’’

Most groups say they shouldn't be expected to make voluntary cash contributions because they are already helping the town through the services they provide. “We will continue to work closely with town officials to support the community we serve,’’ said Naomi Funkhouser, a spokeswoman for Emerson Hospital. “To date, that financial support has been in the form of in-kind donations. Discussions are always ongoing.’’

Selectmen board chair Wienand thinks that's a narrow view. “In a town that has a lot of tax-exempt properties, it would be nice if they kicked in and helped pay,’’ Wieand said. “It’s very expensive to provide town services, and we provide them to all the nonprofits.’’

In case you are wondering, some of the nonprofits declining to make voluntary payments are hardly poor or struggling groups. They include Harvard University, whose property holdings are assessed at $88 million; the Middlesex School’s campus, which is valued at $77 million; and the Concord Land Conservation Trust, with property worth $76 million.—Bruce Trachtenberg