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Private Funds Help Programs Survive

When money for a good cause dries up, the emotions that surface are similar to the emotions you feel after a loss or defeat. First, shock. Then denial, anger, depression and finally, acceptance.

Ask the folks who run and care about Morning Star Boys Ranch. They have lived through a year of pain and loss. Last spring, the state cut $600,000 from Morning Star’s annual budget. Quite an amputation; 70 percent of the ranch’s budget came from taxpayer support.

The ranch, which has helped troubled boys since 1957, cut its staff in half and sent away more than a dozen boys. Those left behind felt angry at the change, but they quickly accepted this reality: State and federal funds are dwindling fast. If you have a program that works, a program you believe in, find private funding.

Morning Star is a role model for other non-profit organizations dependent on government money for much, or part, of their budgets. If your public funds have remained intact this year, count your blessings, but don’t count on it to continue. If you want to stay alive, now is the time to change the way you get your funding.

Wean yourself from government money or die.

Sound harsh? Morning Star experienced it. And fought back. Not at the government that denied them. They realized the futility there. Instead, they decided to run the charity on private donations only. They scaled down. They help only 12 boys now, compared with dozens more in years past. The necessary sacrifice enabled the ranch to remain open. Groups that hope to survive might have to narrow their vision or refocus their mission.

Morning Star also placed on their board lawyers and bankers and people not afraid to ask for big money. Another good tactic. And they are reaching out to people who might be willing to leave big chunks of money to the ranch when they die. Levi and May Hutton’s mining fortune created Hutton Settlement in the Spokane Valley in 1919. The home for orphans is still open and has never accepted public money. There aren’t many childless, wealthy couples like the Huttons around anymore, but they can serve as an example to others in the community. Give part of your estate to charity, and part of you lives on.

Morning Star board members hope to add $10 million to the ranch’s endowment over the next decade. Though the work is hard, they also will experience the relief that comes when an organization’s budget is not tied to the whims and machinations of government.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board