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Arizona nonprofit, outreach community devastated by ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Scottsdale Charros illustrate resiliency of local philanthropic outfits

Posted 7/31/20

The Arizona nonprofit industry, early estimates suggest, is experiencing a revenue drop of $52 million impacting day-to-day operations of endeavors in some places providing a vital community service …

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Arizona nonprofit, outreach community devastated by ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Scottsdale Charros illustrate resiliency of local philanthropic outfits


The Arizona nonprofit industry, early estimates suggest, is experiencing a revenue drop of $52 million impacting day-to-day operations of endeavors in some places providing a vital community service for those in need.

The Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits, a barometer of outreach entities statewide, reports a staggering loss of $52 million in anticipated revenue --- a result of public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Of the nearly 488 qualified 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations who participated in the ongoing COVID-19 Nonprofit Impact Pulse Survey, a total of 98% report being severely impacted by the global pandemic of 2020.

Within those numbers are stories of nonprofit organizations forced to cease nearly 75% of ongoing operations, many of which directly feed families and help employ breadwinners.

As of the second week of June, the nonprofit sector will see a nearly $270 million decline in annual revenue.

Arizona nonprofits employ more than 170,000 Arizonians or 1 in 16 paid jobs in Arizona according to the 2018 report from the L. William Seidman Research Institute, the consulting arm of W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

The Scottsdale Charros are living the realities behind those data points.

“This is literally the million-dollar question,” said Scottsdale Charros Patron Jason Klonoski in response to being asked: what happens now?

“The truth is we don’t know at this moment in time. We hope that it will be through many of our traditional events, spring training, rodeo, CHAPS tax credits, education banquet, Parada del Sol Parade, but we are definitely thinking outside the box for new ways to meet the even greater need in our community in case COVID prevents us from our normal endeavors.”

For nearly 60 years the Scottsdale Charros have been instrumental supporters of public education and in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage. And, for more than 30 years, The Charro Foundation has supported specifically the men and women of the Scottsdale Unified School District.

The support of public education is a keystone of the nonprofit’s effort in the community of Scottsdale. However, a major funding source was cut short --- Spring Training baseball in Scottsdale --- due to public health restrictions around the spread of COVID-19.

“It hurt. Final numbers are just coming in, but we took at least a $500,000 hit,” Mr. Klonoski said. “The good news is we outperformed in other areas so we will give the same amount we gave in previous years. If spring training had not been cut short we would have given much more than ever before.”

Those dollars are a direct pipeline to students, student-athletes, and teachers by supporting public education through programs and scholarships based within Scottsdale Schools as well as youth programs delivered through community-based 501(c)3 nonprofits.

Since the group’s creation, they have provided more than $30 million in direct funding to nonprofit outreach efforts in and around public education and the community of Scottsdale.

The dawn of a new chapter?

Arizona nonprofit officials report devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic --- the Scottsdale Charros are no exception.

“We are a group of leaders, thinkers, and problem-solvers,” Mr. Klonoski explained of the group’s mindset.

“This I can tell you: We will not fail to support our charities. We have already talked to many of our financial supporters with great response. Many converted their spring training tickets or advertisements to a donation, which we are immensely grateful. We are also considering several new initiatives. We hope to have those finalized in the next month or two.”

The Charro Foundation may become a mechanism --- like many nonprofit entities --- for survival as the world changes around everyone, according to Matt White, Charro Foundation president,

“The Charro Foundation was established so that if there was ever disruption to our traditional fundraising ventures the Charros would still be able to give back to our charitable and educational partners,” he said of the worst-case scenario plans already in place. “We did not want those who rely on us to suffer if there was a difficult year for our fundraising activities. The main focus of the Charro Foundation was to save money and grow our assets for future needs.”

--- Matt White

Mr. Klonoski says while the chips may be down an organization in constant pursuit of improvement will overcome any challenge with the right approach and attitude.

“For our entire existence we have been about continual improvement,” he explained.

“While this environment is as challenging as any we have seen, through hard work, technology, efficiency, innovation, education, and more hard work, there is no doubt in my mind we will come out of this better positioned with stronger connections with the business, philanthropic and charitable community. We continue to engage in strategic discussions with all of our stakeholders. We will meet them wherever they need us, as always, ready to serve.”

Best laid plans

The Charro Foundation Board of Directors offered a strategic plan just last year to help plan for an expansion of charitable efforts in years to come.

“The Charro Foundation will take a more active role in the community to support the mission of the Charros,” Mr. White pointed out. “We have an extremely diverse board with many talents that are focused on raising funds for our charitable and educational partners. I am humbled and honored to be part of the Scottsdale Charros and The Charro Foundation.”

Both the Scottsdale Charros and The Charro Foundation is helmed by 100% volunteer “sweat equity” as Executive Director, Dennis Robbins, likes to say.
“Our fundraising priorities are still focused on raising the most money that we can so we can give back to the community,” he said. “We have made sacrifices in canceling events, reduced staff costs, and cutting expenses wherever possible.”

Mr. Robbins says all options are on the table to move the organization forward.

“We want to be able to fund our charities and educational partners this year the same way we have done in previous years. Here are two ways to do this: cutting costs and increasing revenue. We are looking at all options to ensure we meet our fundraising goals.”

For Mr. White, he says he is happy to make the sacrifices with the men and women of the Scottsdale Charros organization.

“The volunteer men and women that lead this organization are some of the finest people in our community,” he said. “They donate their time, money, and resources to help make Scottsdale an even greater place to live, work and be educated. The Foundation has several committees dedicated to ensuring its long-term, sustainable success and we look forward to helping our community for years to come.”

And, Mr. White confirms, The Charro Foundation will continue to fund youth activities.

“Yes, the Charro Foundation will continue to fund youth sports activities, student and teacher scholarships and grants to local charities,” Mr. White said.

“Over the years, The Charro Foundation has been very conservative and responsible in their approach to managing the Foundation’s corpus. Although the 2020 Spring Training season was cut short due to the executive order by the governor and the guidelines, we were still able to raise a substantial amount of money for our causes.”

Mr. Robbins, a second-generation Charro, and the group’s chief executive says his daily focus is the future.

“We will still invest the same amount of funds back into the community this year because we have raised more revenue in some areas and made substantial cuts in other areas,” he said. “Our operations have changed to accommodate the current health crisis, but we are still fulfilling our mission every day.”

--- Dennis Robbins

The old adage of ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ may be an underlying theme of the Charro group remaining steadfast to their goals.

“We have had to weather tough times in the past,” Mr. Robbins recalled. “We have survived a couple of baseball strikes where all or parts of Spring Training seasons did not happen. We have made it through difficult downturns in the economy as well. We have been here for almost 60 years.”

Nothing changes for Mr. Robbins, he says.
“We will continue our mission in good time and in bad times,” he pointed out. “We are committed to making Scottsdale the best community it can be.”

Go to charros.org.