Focus on the Family Cuts 202 Jobs

November 18, 2008

focus-on-the-family-glenn-williams.jpgBecause of a weak economy and cash-strapped donors, Focus on the Family
said it is eliminating 202 jobs, the deepest cuts in the 32-year
history of the Colorado Springs-based Christian nonprofit. The ministry
laid off 149 workers, and cut another 53 vacant positions.

The cuts announced Monday slash Focus’ local workforce by nearly 18
percent – from about 1,150 to 950. Twenty percent of the cuts are in

The layoffs come just weeks after Focus announced it was outsourcing
46 jobs from its distribution department. Focus also laid off 30
workers and reassigned 15 more in September 2007.

The organization also cut its the budget from $160 million in fiscal
2008 to $138 million for fiscal 2009 in anticipation of tough times.

The reason for the layoffs and budget revisions Donations are down, and Focus relies almost entirely on the charity of others.

That problem is reverberating throughout the nonprofit sector, said
Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. president Mike Kazmierski.

“It’s probably going to get worse,” he said. “When people have to
cut back, the only place they have to go is their discretionary income.”

Glenn Williams, Focus’ chief operating officer, said that more than
95 percent of the organization’s income comes from donations, with book
sales accounting for the remainder. Donations to Focus set a record
high in fiscal 2008, he said. But donations began to decline in
October, which starts Focus’ new fiscal year, and after polling major
donors, Focus expects this holiday season – normally the most lucrative
time of the year for nonprofits – to be even more painful to the bottom

“Looking at October trends and talking to donors who are not in a
position where they can give, we thought we’d be facing a more severe
decision in January or February if we waited,” Williams said.

The cuts are taking place throughout the organization. The most
visible change will be the elimination of the print editions of four of
its eight magazines.

The content of the magazines – Plugged In, Breakaway, Brio and Brio & Beyond – will remain online.

Plugged In, for example, has seen its print subscriber base dip to
30,000 while its Web site attracts 1 million unique visitors a month,
Williams said.

Macroeconomic realities and changing technology – not the political
cycle – drove the decisions, said Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger.

A separate political arm, Focus on the Family Action, sees its
funding ebb when there are no elections on the horizon, but that’s not
the case with Focus on the Family.

Although Focus grabs most of its headlines on political topics, it
spends only 6 percent of its budget in that arena, such as the roughly
$500,000 the organization spent to support the Proposition 8 gay
marriage ban in California.

The other 94 percent of its budget is dedicated to its far less
sensational mission of dispensing parenting and marital advice via
Dobson’s radio broadcasts, as well as through books, magazines and Web

Schneeberger said the money earmarked for this year’s political battles did not affect the pot of money for employees.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Kazmierski concluded. “In the case of
Focus, we believe it’s part of the economy, and as the economy recovers
we expect a lot of those jobs to come back.”

In the meantime, the 149 laid-off employees will enter a tough job
market in the Colorado Springs metro area, where job growth is flat and
unemployment has crept up over 6 percent.

Source: Colorado Springs Gazette

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