Americans Didn’t Pull Back on Their Giving Last Year, Report Finds

By Holly Hall
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Washington, DC (June 9, 2010)- The economy struck another blow to charitable donations last year, causing contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals to decline by 3.2 percent, according to Giving USA, the annual tally of American philanthropy released this morning. The dip comes after the first year of the recession depressed giving by 2.4 percent in 2008. Giving USA said last year’s drop was partly due to foundations, which decreased their giving by 8.6 percent. Corporate giving rose by 5.9 percent, although the report speculated that companies shifted their giving to goods and products and away from cash.

But individuals, who make 75 percent of all charitable contributions, held steady in their giving, providing more than $227-billion, the same sum they contributed in 2008, according to researchers at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, who compile Giving USA. That finding, however, puzzles many fundraisers and scholars, who see few, if any, signs that individuals gave the same amount last year, as the nation struggled with the worst recession in 70 years.

Indeed, in a Chronicle spot-check of 57 charities over the past two weeks, 35 organizations said giving dropped in 2009. Most fundraisers said that even though 2010 is halfway over, they have yet to see individual donations rebound to what they were before the recession began in December 2007.”It will be interesting to see the reaction to the finding that giving has been flat, because that has not been the experience of most of us,” said Bill Sturtevant, a veteran fund raiser who advises charities nationwide. “Anecdotally, a lot of organizations were down anywhere from 8 to 10 percent in 2009.”

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Americans Didn’t Pull Back on Their Giving Last Year, Report Finds