Good News and Bad News
Charitable giving drops for second consecutive year
Donations to charities that provide food, shelter and international aid went up
The recent release of Giving USA, an annual report on philanthropy
that has been published since 1956, confirmed what the nonprofit
sector has known for the past 18 months. Charitable giving is down
3.6% from 2008.
As Americans continue to struggle with recession fallout, charitable
giving is among the first things to be cut from household budgets.
Notably, religious organizations, which receive more than a third of all
charitable dollars, saw its first drop since 1969. The arts, education and
humanities also saw record declines.
“Frankly, things could have been worse overall for those who operate
the charities,” says Giving USA Foundation, who co-produces the
report with The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Chair
Edith H. Falk. “While overall giving declined, many donors - including
individuals and foundations - made special efforts in 2009 to respond to
greater humanitarian needs.”
Nonprofits that provide food, shelter, job training, and health care saw
increases in contributions; as did those that provide international aid –
due to the earthquake in Haiti. These causes benefitted from 3% and 6%
The Community Foundation’s giving in these areas also increased in
2009. Community Foundation grants to charities that provide food,
shelter or job training received 10% more this year than last. And thanks
to a lead gift by fundholders David Horvitz and Francie Bishop Good
that was matched by The Kresge Foundation, more than $40,000 has
been invested in programs to benefit Haitian earthquake victims here in
The Giving USA report also shows a 24% decrease in bequests, largely
attributable to the Walton and Croc estates that both closed last year.
On the converse, the report showed an increase in donor advised funds,
such as those offered by the Community Foundation.
“Donor advised Funds are a flexible way for donors to get the look and
feel of a private foundation without the administrative obligations,”
noted Barbara Witte, vice president philanthropic services of the
Community Foundation. “It’s a strategic way to approach your
philanthropy, especially in these times when there is more competition
for fewer dollars.”