The budget cuts and major restructuring at The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) are meant to ensure the organization’s long-term sustainability, said its outgoing executive director Cheryl Curtis.
“What I would hope folks would see when they hear this news is…that there is a commitment to providing a program for expressing the PWRDF ministry that uses their resources very responsibly and in a very focused way,” said Curtis. PWRDF is the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada.
In an interview, Curtis said she did not think the major changes would shake donor confidence in PWRDF. “I think Anglicans are very proud of PWRDF and expect the board to be making a careful financial decision,” she said. “I recognize that when people are not in the center of decisions that a decision may feel like a surprise…That doesn’t mean that it makes the decision any less valid or any less right for the organization.”
On Jan. 28, Curtis had announced that PWRDF’s executive committee unanimously approved a 26 per cent reduction in the 2010-2011 budget and a staff restructuring that saw the elimination of seven positions and the creation of three new ones. A day later, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and PWRDF board president, announced that Curtis was resigning effective end of February.
Curtis also said it’s “not uncommon for executive directors to implement significant change for an organization and then depart.”
The restructuring was not sudden, she said. “It’s been known for some time and before budget cuts were determined, conversation about…what structure we need for staff, for our good strong future, has been part of our discernment.” She added: “I would want to give assurances that [the restructuring] has been done in as careful and caring and fair way with staff as possible.”
Curtis explained that the executive committee had been instructed by the PWRDF board “to make significant cuts this year so as not to have to make significant changes or small constant changes over a period of years.” PWRDF’s budget for 2011-2012 has also been reduced by 10 per cent. Further reductions may not be necessary “should the economy shift and move forward,” she said.
With this year’s cut, PWRDF is looking at a draft budget of $5.2 million, which is $1.1 million less than the 2009-2010 budget of $6.3 million. The budget will be finalized by the PWRDF board when it meets early May.
PWRDF’s executive committee also determined that the cuts were necessary in order to replenish PWRDF’s reserve fund.
PWRDF has had to draw $2.2 million from its reserve fund over a two-year period to “top up funding” for PWRDF partners, which were no longer included in a “newly-focused” program of the Canadian International Development Assistance (CIDA), she said. Curtis explained that although CIDA, the federal government’s international aid agency, has maintained its funding level to PWRDF, it has shifted its program and is now solely focused on the health sector. CIDA used to co-fund over 40 PWRDF partners in 20 countries and that has since been reduced to six PWRDF partners in four countries.
The decision to continue supporting PWRDF partners no longer in the CIDA list was taken “from the place where the economy in North America and in the West was still strong,” she said. A plan to hold a major gift fundraising campaign for PWRDF’s 50th anniversary was also in place, she added. The campaign was suspended after the global economic meltdown.
Curtis said that although grants will be reduced, PWRDF has not changed the list of countries where it has a partnership, and it continues to be engaged in programs related to gender, the environment, HIV-AIDS, human rights and access to services.
Curtis said the reserve fund “has not been depleted; it’s still a healthy reserve” but that the board wants it at level that would provide “for a more optimum organizational need.” In May 2009, PWRDF finance and administration team leader Jill Martin said that the PWRDF had a $3 million reserve fund. Curtis said PWRDF plans to replenish the reserve over a three-year period.
Curtis also cited the global economic downturn, which gave rise to fluctuation in currency that devalued funds given to partners and slowed down donations as factors that affected PWRDF’s financial standing.
Donations have “slowed down,” said Curtis, adding that when a major humanitarian crisis or disaster hits, this also affects the PWRDF appeal. Donations received for a disaster appeal is designated or to be used solely for that purpose.
Curtis said she could not say how much the donations for the PWRDF appeal have gone down since yearend figures have yet to be tallied after the fiscal year ends late March; PWRDF staff are also concentrating on the appeal for victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12.