Nonprofit spotlight: OnTrack helps others navigate the financial waters

Has your organization had a significant change in revenue recently?
Yes. Our change is directly related to the financial crisis and mortgage crisis because, as the mortgage market was deteriorating, and people were facing foreclosure, Congress decided money needed to be put into housing counseling, which was really a smart thing so that we could help borrowers avoid foreclosure. Nationally, there was a push to have resources available for consumers to avoid foreclosures so we had a big uptick in that area of funding.

What is the short- and long-term outlook?
Hopefully, we're coming out of the major economic recession [and conditions] are starting to stabilize. We feel like we're looking at the next chapter of services we provide to Western North Carolina. … We have a few areas that we're going to be focusing on: youth financial literacy, women's financial empowerment, [and] services for older adults. We're [also] opening an office in Franklin, match savings for home ownership.

Tell me about “match savings” for home ownership.
They're called individual development accounts. …  The match savings for home ownership is a variety of programs that allow people to sign up, … come through 23 hours of home-buyer education counseling, creating budgets, reviewing credit reports — that kind of thing. Then, whatever entity is sponsoring the program will match the money the participant has saved up to a certain dollar amount. The cool thing is, right now, Mission Hospital has one of those programs for [its] employees. There's a cap on the income the employee can earn [to participate in this program], so that it's targeting the lower-paid employees. The Biltmore Company and the YWCA have one. And … we got a federal grants 2 1/2 years ago to work with Mountain Housing Opportunities and [its] low-income renters. … If the economy turns, it's an opportunity for us to maybe expand that to invite more employers or look for other federal money to do the match savings.

Usually when the economy takes a downturn, it can also take a downturn for nonprofits as well. However, for your nonprofit, when people faced financial difficulties, it created an opportunity. Can you talk about that?
You made the comment about funding and the ebbs and flows of funding. When people are in crisis, entities tend to throw in money at that crisis — not in cavalier sort of way — but they tend to funnel or allocate money to whatever the crisis is. Because we've been in the position to help people respond to crises, that helps us from a funding perspective. But we have to be real vigilant that as the crisis subsides. I used to call it the flavor of the month. What's Congress going to fund this month? The mortgage crisis has been so severe and so long-lasting, it has garnered a lot of attention and funding. This is great because people are still faced with foreclosure issues and housing-stability issues, so we’re there for those folks, but we're also taking a look longer term about next thing on the horizon. — Celeste Collins, executive director for OnTrack WNC

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