Eastern New Mexico organizations absent from state reference guide

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Eastern New Mexico charities are absent from a non-profit charity list created as a reference guide for state employee donations. The list includes more than 100 charities, however, almost half of all the charities listed are based in Albuquerque or central New Mexico.

United Way of Eastern New Mexico Executive Director Erinn Burch is dismayed by the 2006 New Mexico State Employees Charities Campaign brochure omissions.

“Our state employees do not all live in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. To not give them local giving choices is abominable. The first responsibility of a campaign like this is to offer choice,” Burch said from her office.

New Mexico Department of Health officials, recently commissioned to compile the list, apologized for the omission.

Department of Health Human Resources Manager Angela Lobato said she used last year’s brochure as a template. When she noticed the same charities were listed over and over, according to area branches, she said she chose to consolidate the brochure by listing duplicate organizations only once.

There are some organizations in the brochure, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the American Red Cross, that are still represented according to area branches, however.

She said donations sent to central New Mexico offices will be disbursed evenly to area chapters. Smaller communities may actually stand to benefit from state-wide disbursals, since donations in urban areas tend to be larger due to population, she said.

Lobato and other Department of Health employees said state employees can donate to any non-profit charity they chose simply by writing the name and phone number of the charity on their provided contribution forms.

“(State employees) can definitely donate to whoever (they) want. That’s the message we are trying to send out right now,” Lobato said.

Lobato said the brochure project landed on her desk late in the summer and she rushed to complete it.

“It’s a learning process for me, too,” Lobato said.

The New Mexico State Employees Charities Campaign, launched to enable state employees to donate to charities through payroll deductions, has shuffled through a number of hands. United Way originally operated the campaign, until the organization was accused of malfeasance, including siphoning donations, Lobato and Burch said. The campaign was transferred to the New Mexico Department of Health, the state General Service Department, and then back to the Department of Health.

“What we want is for more money to go to charities,” current campaign manager Lobato said.

Burch said the state employees’ charity program has been losing participation for a long time, and now the campaign has cut off choices for state employees. “It (NMSECC) needs to be run effectively to give state employees a choice of how they can give and how they can give where they live,” Burch said.

It costs about $4,000 to produce 25,000 brochures, according to Lobato, a fee she considers relatively minimal.
Lobato said she wants to revamp the program, increase access, and include more charities before the 2007 brochure is released.