One Nonprofit Says a Public “No” to Federal Money

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January 13, 2016; WFXT-TV (Boston, MA)

As far as nonprofits are concerned, sticking to principle is a wonderful thing, especially if your constituents agree with those principles.

In Manchester, New Hampshire, Liberty House is choosing to retain its mission focus rather than take federal dollars from HUD because the facility simply does not believe in the tenets of the Housing First initiative—in particular, in allowing drugs or alcohol on the premises.

“We’re doing the right thing because it’s the right thing,” said Keith Howard, the organization’s director, who’s taking a pay cut this year to offset the $40,000 difference. “They have every right to say, if you want to take our money, you have to dance our dance. It’s just not a dance that’s healthy for the men and women here,”

Navy veteran Jim McCormack, a current resident, agrees. “I purposely looked for a sober place to live for my own well-being,” McCormack said. “Their whole concept is an enabling thing. I’m against it completely.”

“We’re not victims here,” said Howard. “We are standing on our two feet, having made a decision and we will live with the consequences.”

This story is not a bad fundraising pitch either, striking us as having some of the same elements as the story of the donor who demanded a Girl Scout chapter not use any portion of the gift to serve trans girls. In that case, the money was replaced manyfold by the public.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Great story. I had to take the lead on turning down a funder recently for similar reasons, but it would be harmful for all concerned to discuss it publicly. It was a hard decision but afterwards we all knew it was the right decision. There is always a give and take between principles and practicality, but when you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach (whether a metaphorical bad feeling for the organization or actual suppression of vomiting by a decision-maker) it’s important to listen to that and focus on what is the right thing for your mission.