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How Are Nonprofits Surviving And Thriving In Las Vegas?


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In this season of giving, how are charities in Las Vegas surviving?

Over the last couple of years, nonprofits have generated tremendous publicity. Do you remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?  

That effort raised more than $100-million from three million donors. 

It also reminds us of the power of individual giving and the potential of social media.

Then again, we’re in Las Vegas. This city reputation for vice often overshadows the more generous elements of our residents.

So how are nonprofits here doing? The recession hit all of us hard, but especially those who rely upon giving to survive. Are they doing that: Surviving?

Dana Serrata is the executive director of Helping Hands of the Vegas Valley, which provides free transportation and other services to the valley's seniors in need.

She told KNPR's State of Nevada that during the recession nonprofits cut back on services or disappeared entirely.

Her group decided to continue and get the money they need anyway they could.

"We went ahead and made the commitment to do everything we could to find money to serve as many people as we could," she said, "And while some nonprofits were actually shrinking or going away, we have actually increased our budget and the amount of people that we're serving."

Support comes from

Serrata said that because Healing Hands is not a national or even regional organization it makes it more difficult to tap into some of the pockets of the bigger donors and foundations. 

Her group received most of its budget from the state's settlement with the tobacco companies a few years ago, but that money is running out. According to Serrata, the money from the settlement has dropped 20 percent every year, while the need from the community has increased.

Serrata believes most people donate to charities when the mission that organization "resonants with their soul." 

Kathryn Bonello with Nathan Adelson Hospice agreed. She said most of the people who donate to her group do so because they've had a personal experience with the hospice.

"Most of our donors tend to come from families and patients so they've had an experience with hospice," she said. "They really understand. It's not just a one-dimensional word 'hospice,' but they have an experience with us,"

Nathan Adelson Hospice has been around for 37 years and is the only nonprofit hospice in Las Vegas. It is reimbursed by Medicare for some of the services it provides, but for others it is donations from the community that keep it afloat.

Bonello said one of the things that has helped it survive and thrive for so many years is its strong strong board of directors, which is full of people from some of the most prominent families in Southern Nevada.

"We have some really strong pillars within our organization, within our community that help us get our message across," she said.

Darlene Terrell with Westcare Foundation, which provides treatment for substance abuse, mental health services, and help for homeless youth, said the community boards in her organization are a tremendous help in fundraising.

"Seven of the 17 states right now have developed these boards that are actually working to promote awareness to be the voice, the eyes, the ears of everything that we do in the community, which really helps us to work with our fundraising," she said. 

Terrell believes that when people see the results of an organization efforts they're more likely to donate. 

“You have to believe in the cause," she said, "You have to feel like you're really going to make a difference." 





Dana Serrata, executive director, Helping Hand Las Vegas; Kathryn Bonello, Nathan Adelson Hospice, Darlene Terrell, Westcare Foundation

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