Waynesboro nonprofit fights to survive

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Some organizations may be too big to fail, but others may be too beneficial. That appears to be the case with Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes revitalization of downtown Waynesboro and produces six major festivals each year.

WDDI announced this spring that it faced a nearly $14,000 budget shortfall and could run out of cash by April 15. The organization, which last year got $65,000 in city support, cut salaries and benefits, started a private fundraising campaign and asked the city about emergency funding.

City officials were prepared to support WDDI. If WDDI went under, Waynesboro would no longer be eligible to participate in the Virginia Main Street program, which according to Kimberly Watters, executive director of WDDI, “would be devastating for the city.”

Through Virginia Main Street, WDDI can access a network of economic development and revitalization information and also leverage its funding for volunteer participation. Many volunteers are professionals, such as architects, lawyers and contractors, which the city could never afford on its own, Watters says.

Luckily, WDDI is pulling itself back from the brink. Although the city offered $12,000 in support to cover its budget shortfall, WDDI turned it down after quickly raising $7,300 in private donations and taking additional cost-cutting measures. The organization still has a $6,500 shortfall, but Watters is confident it will make that up with the outreach campaign and this year’s events.

Still, the organization’s troubles are far from over. The Waynesboro City Council must reduce its general fund spending by nearly $750,000 for its 2010 budget. It recently proposed cutting WDDI funds by 23 percent, dropping its appropriation from $65,000 to $50,000 a year. WDDI is fighting against that, but the only hope for full funding is if other city-supported community organizations get financial aid from the Community Action Partnership of Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro, which recently received federal stimulus money. (WDDI is not eligible for this funding.)

Watters says that if WDDI gets just $50,000 in city funds, it will be difficult to stay afloat — but not impossible. The organization’s earlier struggles, in fact, have positioned it well for the future. WDDI will continue its private outreach campaign and look for more find ways to tighten its belt. “To say that I’m not concerned would be foolish,” Watters says, “but I am very optimistic at the same time because of the very generous, very positive response we’ve gotten from the community.”

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