Nonprofit Groups Urged to Examine Y2K's Impact on Their Missions

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WASHINGTON -- Nonprofit groups are being encouraged to start thinking about how the Y2K computer problem might affect their social missions.

One area of concern is food banks that distribute canned goods to the needy, said Norman Dean, executive director of the Center for Y2K and Society, a Washington-based nonprofit formed six months ago with grants from a dozen foundations.

'Many food banks are dependent on donations,' said Dean. 'Will concern over Y2K cause people to keep food on shelves rather than donate canned goods during annual food drives in the fall?'

Dean's group suggests that organizations hold their collection drives earlier in the fall so that they still have time to pursue other sources if necessary.

The group has established a grant program so that community organizations can apply for funding to assess a particular situation, learning lessons that might be of value to other communities.

The center will award a first round of $10,000 to $25,000 grants this month and plans to accept more applications for July. Smaller nonprofit organizations in rural and inner-city areas usually do not have the resources of larger and medium-sized groups to begin to anticipate possible Y2K problems, said Margaret Anderson, the center's policy director.

One proposal the center is considering would evaluate some of the smaller health clinics in Washington, D.C., to determine what Y2K-related problems could hurt them. 'What happens if Medicaid in the District of Columbia is not available or paid reliably?' asked Anderson. 'What if there is more pressure from stockpiling of pharmaceuticals, what happens to the donation programs?'