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Nonprofits take a hit as businesses tighten budgets

Updated July 8, 2020 - 8:21 am

Erica Mosca was surprised when the $7,500 donation from NV Energy came through last week.

Mosca applied for the donation to her nonprofit, Leaders in Training, in January, before the coronavirus pandemic upended the economy.

“In March, they let us know that they wanted us to update our application on what has changed or not changed due to COVID,” said Mosca, founder and executive director of Leaders in Training, which focuses on getting kids into college. “We said we were still in program and were pivoting to help our families, and we actually got $7,500. I’m kind of surprised, and we’re very lucky and grateful. Nevada Energy, for us, has stepped up.”

But many other corporations have not been able to do so.

The pandemic has forced many businesses to re-evaluate their philanthropic budgets, potentially hobbling local nonprofit operations.


About 42 percent of corporate leaders have considered decreasing philanthropic funding, according to a statewide survey released last month by consulting firm Moonridge Group.

Some of the major donors in Southern Nevada are casinos operators.

Ron Reese, a spokesman for Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the company’s philanthropic arm, Sands Cares, said, “In times like these, some (nonprofits) are certainly going to take priority.”

Companies tighten their belts during a recession in obvious places, he said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times, these charitable contributions will also get scaled down, and that’s certainly going to be a challenge because you’re going to have a lot of nonprofits in Southern Nevada that are going to be in need,” Reese said.

Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth is a recipient of Sands Cares’ donations. The money helps crucial services, academic research summits, NPHY executive director Arash Ghafoori said. The organization has seen a surge in demand with youth coming in for shower, laundry, shelter and transportation services.

So far, he hasn’t heard businesses say they are pulling funding, but “we are very, very, very concerned about the long-term ramifications of COVID and how that can affect our sector,” he said.

Since the pandemic, Sands and many other casino operators have donated personal protective equipment and poured money into many organizations on the front line, including nonprofit organizations that deal with health care.

For example, Sands provided 2 million surgical masks to health care providers and first responders in New York and Nevada.

Meanwhile, Boyd Gaming Corp. donated more than 35,000 masks and 20,000 pairs of gloves to first responders and hospitals in the valley. Caesars Entertainment Corp. distributed 3,500 masks to Dignity Health, 200,000 pairs of gloves and 4,000 masks to University Medical Center, 150 cases of hand sanitizer and 7,500 masks to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

MGM Resorts International has donated 800 goggles, 1,000 KN95 masks, and 100,000 surgical masks to Nevada Healthcare systems and 6,000 gloves and 2,000 surgical masks to Nevada Health Centers.

Station Casinos donated $1 million to COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to purchase PPE and medical supplies.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. donated more than 245,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks and 580,000 pairs of medical gloves and gowns to first responders and health professionals.

Representatives for Boyd, Caesars, MGM, Station, and Wynn declined to comment on the pandemic’s impact on philanthropic spending decisions for the remainder of the year.

Meanwhile, local nonprofits say they need funding now more than ever.

Nevada Ballet Theatre, which has shuttered its physical doors since March, is projecting $2.6 million loss in revenue this year. Several of its programs and fundraising events have moved online.

CEO Beth Barbre said most annual donors have given already, but now that the nonprofit is in a new fiscal year, the theater is reaching out individually to current and new donors.

“Our large funders know the predicament we are all in, but we have not seen that yet,” Barbre said of any corporate donation decline. “That being said, we have some missed opportunities next season. We have corporate sponsors that we might not be able to offer them the same types of benefits in the past when we were able to perform, so we’re making the case of what we can do virtually.”

Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada operates two free health care clinics for the uninsured and has seen a 25 percent budget reduction as a result of the pandemic, co-founder Gard Jameson said.

Corporate sponsors are dropping off, but he declined to say which organizations have canceled sponsorships.

“We are struggling to make ends meet with this reduction,” Jameson said, “but we have a major benefactor through this tough time.”

Jameson said Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin and his wife, Oleksandra, have stepped up during this difficult time. “Wells Fargo has also stood by us and continues to stand by us, and we’re really grateful,” he said.

A spokesman for Wells Fargo confirmed it did provide a grant to the organization. A representative for Treasure Island did not respond to a request for comment.


Jennifer Schuricht, a spokeswoman for NV Energy, confirmed that the company’s philanthropic foundation did provide Leaders in Training with the $7,500 gift. Since the pandemic, NV Energy Foundation donated more than $1 million toward nonprofits in the state and is “prioritizing funding to organizations and programs that are working on COVID-19 response and recovery.”

More than 60 percent of corporate funders that responded to the Moonridge Group survey indicated they want to “make more impact through specific selected causes” as a result of the pandemic.

“For us, I think you have to remain strategic where you can provide the most value,” Reese said. “The key going forward is being able to adapt to urgent situations and provide immediate impact to important nonprofit organizations.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Jonathan Ng at jng@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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