June 22, 2012; Source: Greater Wilmington Business Journal

A recent story in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal explores fundraising at social service nonprofits in Cape Fear, N.C. and highlights key challenges for the region identified by sector leaders and academic researchers. Just as in other geographic areas, nonprofits in Cape Fear are grappling with increased demand for services with a reduced base of funding without the benefit of large local corporate or foundation communities. Within that trend, what might make Cape Fear’s case slightly different is the recent finding by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Laurie E. Paarlberg that the region’s large number of transplants do not feel engaged in the community and lack the personal connections that often spur individual charitable giving.

Paarlberg found that Cape Fear is “a region where many of the wealthiest residents are relative newcomers.” Interestingly, because Paarlberg considered the home region of her survey respondents, she also came to the conclusion that transplants from the “Northeast and from other parts of North Carolina might continue their charitable giving but direct it to their ‘home’ communities [but] Midwesterners, in contrast, are more likely to transfer their giving—and their volunteer efforts—to their new communities.”

As a possible explanation for some of the disconnect in giving by transplants, Paarlberg told the Business Journal, “To be fair, newcomers—especially those coming from large urban centers—can find it hard to engage with organizations here. ” As added context, she noted, “Many nonprofits don’t have formal volunteer management or training programs.” As one example of a nonprofit that is attempting to boost its community engagement efforts, the Business Journal cites Angie Hill, director of marketing and development at Brigade Boys and Girls Club, who emphasizes the fact that every dollar her organization raises stays in the community. “We want more people to understand what we do in this community,” Hill said.

For Cape Fear nonprofits, the UNC study has highlighted the age-old need for added space for programming and volunteer training along with the importance of community outreach. –Anne Eigeman