July 19, 2010; Source: Los Angeles Business Journal | For for-profit companies, competition is a way of life, but when the same happens for nonprofits, it can get ugly. Such is the case in Los Angeles where two groups are engaged in a public and legal spat over who has the rights to conduct an AIDS walk.

On one side is AIDS Walk Los Angeles, an event that has been raising money for the cause since 1985 through its signature annual walks. Now, AIDS Project Los Angeles, organizers of that long-running event, are up in arms about plans for the first ever California AIDS Walk, which is scheduled in mid-October, three-weeks before its fund-raiser. More so, as the Los Angeles Business Journal reports, the competing event is being staged by AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Los Angeles, which the newsaper said, “allegedly undercut a similar AIDS walk in Florida.”

“They didn’t talk to us in advance and they clearly didn’t try to not compete with our event,” said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles. Thompon’s group has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court demanding that the new AIDS walk in Griffith Park change its name, move dates and use a less similar logo.

Until this recently, both organizations have co-existed peacefully for years. AIDS Project Los Angeles arrived first in 1982, providing counseling and housing and other services to AIDS patients, along with prevention and policy advocacy efforts. The group has remained both small and local over the years, with an $18 million annual budget. Meanwhile, The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which was established five years later to provide death-bed care to patients, has since been growing both aggressively and globally and now supports treatment clinics in 22 countries to the tune of $180 million annually.

The recent flare up between the two organizations appears to be a reflection of the tougher funding environment all groups are facing. In fact, Regina Birdsell, executive director of the Center for Nonprofit Management, wonders if more of these fights aren’t likely to spring up between groups involved in similar efforts. “It’s a competitive market, and we’ve certainly seen in the last 18 months that it’s even more competitive, given the reduction in individual giving, government dollars, foundation grants and corporate giving,” Birdsell said. “Everyone’s looking to try and find new sources of revenue to make up for those reductions and cuts.” Here’s hoping cooler heads prevail and prevent one group from walking over the other or walking away with more than its fair share of funds.—Bruce Trachtenberg