Conservation group hit by declining donations

A donation shortfall has forced Western Colorado Congress, one of the region’s leading conservation groups, to lay off two-thirds of its professional staff, members of the organization’s board of directors said Sunday.

Gene Goffin, vice president of Western Colorado Congress’ board of directors, said a struggling economy and political campaigns sapping the group’s usual donors led to its budget shortfall.

“We’re not closing our doors,” Goffin said. “We have let go some of the staff because of some funding shortfalls.”

Goffin declined to comment on the specific amount of the shortfall.

Tony Prendergast, one of the organization’s directors at large, said Western Colorado Congress did not grow its fundraising base as quickly as its expenses racked up. As a result, he said, six paid staff members were fired.

“Basically, Western Colorado Congress has been extremely mission-focused all these years and has grown very quickly … from a small nonprofit to what I see as a medium nonprofit,” Prendergast said. “In the course of doing so, I think we didn’t do enough of the institution building to work as a medium-sized nonprofit. It left us vulnerable.”

According to tax forms, the nonprofit group’s donations steadily grew between the 2000 and 2005 tax years, peaking at $568,070 the final year.

The group’s donations fell to $521,709 during the 2006 tax year but did not drop off precipitously, the tax forms show.

Mark Schofield, director of organizing for Western Colorado Congress, said he is one of only a handful of professional staff members left on the payroll.

“Hopefully this will be temporary,” Schofield said. “It’s something we had to do.”

Noalani Terry, secretary of the organization’s board of directors, said the group’s work, which began in the 1980s, will go on, albeit in a modified form.

“Our work is too important to let a slight dip in funding bother us,” she said.


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