The Salvation Army Corps Modesto Citadel and the Modesto Gospel Mission have been in the same boat the past several years – growth in cost of providing services rising at a much higher rate than revenue.
It’s meant, among other things, reduction in staff and staff hours – the old “learning to do more with less” that’s so familiar to so many nonprofits.
But now, the belt tightening is taking a more concrete form for the two charitable organizations. The mission has had to put on hold efforts toward building an 80-bed addition to shelter women and children. The army has proposed to its divisional and territorial headquarters that it move out of its community center building at 625 I St. and consolidate services into its Berberian Shelter and Transitional Living Center at Ninth and D.
Our donor base is aging for both organizations (The Salvation Army and Modesto Gospel Mission), and the way we’ve typically raised funds is changing. For many years, we depended on mailing information to our donor base, saying this is what our needs are and here’s how can you help. But we have fewer and fewer people anymore who want to receive mail. They view it as anything that comes in the mail is a bill or junk.
Salvation Army Capt. Dwaine Breazeale
At the very least, the Salvation Army proposal, if approved, would reduce overhead, said Capt. Dwaine Breazeale, Modesto Citadel Corps officer and Stanislaus County coordinator. All programs and services at the I Street building – weekday lunch service, Saturday breakfast, social services and county administration – would move to the Berberian shelter, he said.
The big building on Ninth is half shelter, half warehouse. “We have a full-size commercial kitchen here” on I Street, Breazeale said Thursday,” and a full kitchen at the shelter, so it seems logical to have just one kitchen, one staff, and things like cleaning supplies not being duplicated.”
The Modesto Citadel Corps also operates two churches in its facilities, which it will merge. “So instead of the small congregation that meets here and one at the Red Shield Center in the southwest area,” Breazeale said, “we’re all going to meet at Red Shield to make a larger, healthier congregation so we can more effectively do the things that The Salvation Army is called to do.”
The Citadel’s concept sent to headquarters doesn’t include a budget, so if it’s approved, the captain said he’ll have to follow up with a proposal that does. That concept would lay out the costs to make transition and what the savings will be.
Nationwide, The Salvation Army has a high percentage of every dollar donated – 92 to 93 cents – that goes directly to services, according to Dwaine Breazeale. The Modesto Gospel Mission is able to direct about 73 cents straight to services, according to Kevin Carroll.
A big question mark at this point is what would become of the I Street building, which the Army owns, just as it does the shelter and the Red Shield Center.
Money from selling the site would go to remodeling the Berberian building, with excess put into a capital trust for repairs, replacement and purchase of equipment, and other needs, Breazeale said. But “we may not be able to liquidate this property for what it could cost us. There are a lot of buildings sitting vacant downtown. We do know that we can reduce our overhead, our ongoing expenses, by not being here.”
The army has been in the I street building since the 1970s, and it was built in the ’30s, he said. It costs the charity thousands each month in upkeep.
Nonprofits traditionally are asset-rich, cash-poor, said Kevin Carroll, executive director of the Modesto Gospel Mission. The mission, too, owns its facilities, but unlike the army, it doesn’t have anything it could shut without also reducing services, he said.
“Meeting the challenge going forward, we have to be extremely wise stewards with what we’re given and have to be careful on how we want to expand – if we can expand. At this point, we don’t see any room for expansion of our services because we don’t have the financial ability,” Carroll said.
We’re always one natural disaster away from having a financial crisis.
Kevin Carroll, noting than when a disaster strikes, people want to contribute, but since money doesn’t come out of thin air, they’re then able to donate less to community charities. Last year, the disasters were California wildfires.
He noted that the mission’s shelter for women and and children always is jampacked. The mission will continue to fundraise for the dedicated account for construction of the new shelter. “We have a couple hundred thousand, but that’s not going to begin to meet the need, Carroll said. “And I can’t go forward with that project knowing I have general budget issues.”
Both he and Breazeale noted that donations to their organizations have steadily increased in recent years, about 6 percent annually. But speaking only for the army, Breazeale said that pales “compared to the increase in costs. In a five-year period, our HR expenses are 50 percent more than they were. And fuel, insurance, everything is costing so much more before we even offer a bit of service to the community.”
The Modesto Citadel has 18 fewer employees today that when he arrived a little more than a year ago, Breazeale said. There have been no layoffs, but positions that opened because of attrition – staffers retiring or taking other jobs – have not been filled.
Carroll said the mission also has not backfilled positions and is down about a dozen people from two years ago. The mission has not had layoffs but has made reductions in staff hours, taking personnel down to 32 hours a week.
Even as costs have outpaced revenue, The Salvation Army in Modesto has increased some services. A year ago, it made the seasonal Berberian shelter open year round. And in the past month, it had its biggest lunch feeding in five years – 300 people.
Services have been affected, too. The mission’s children’s center went from operating daily to just weekdays, Carroll said, and outreach into the parks and community has been reduced. Both agency leaders said volunteers are more important than ever but they still need to maintain core staff.
“We have operated our facility here at about a $200,000 to $250,000 deficit each year for at least a decade, and the Red Shield is the same,” Breazeale said.
Added Carroll, “For us, it’s been a reduction in budget. We recently approved a $2.2 million budget, down almost $600,000” from the previous year.
The total budget for The Salvation Army in Modesto is $4.5 million for the Citadel (Berberian shelter, child development center, food distribution warehouse, noon feeding program, emergency social services, church and county administration), Breazeale said, and an additional $1.5 million for the Red Shield Center.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327