August 14, 2022

Charitable Giving Rose Last Year for First Time Since 2007

Individuals, companies and philanthropic institutions made gifts and pledges totaling an estimated $290.89 billion in 2010, an increase of 2.1 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis over a revised estimate of $284.85 billion the year before.

The increase was the first since 2007, when the recession started and led to the biggest decline in giving in more than 40 years.

“I was greatly encouraged that giving showed this slight uptick in 2010,” said Edith H. Falk, chief executive of Campbell Company, a fund-raising advisory firm, and chairwoman of the foundation, an arm of the Giving Institute. “We all know how difficult the prior two years had been because we experienced it personally in the work we do.”

Still, if giving were to continue to grow at the same pace it did last year, it would be five to six years before it reached its 2007 peak of $326.57 billion. “One of the challenges charities face is whether this represents the new normal or whether, if the economy starts growing more robustly again, giving also will grow more vigorously,” said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which does the research and analysis that goes into the report.

Philanthromax, a fund-raising consulting firm, estimates that total charitable donations will increase 4.3 percent this year on a nominal basis.

Rob Mitchell, chief executive of the firm and formerly chief of the American Cancer Society Foundation, said although giving rose 8.3 percent through April, it most likely would start slowing and begin to decline in October, November and December, typically the strongest fund-raising season. “We’re looking at 2011 as the tale of two halves, with the first half of the year being quite strong and declining giving in the second half,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Neal Litvack, chief development officer at the American Red Cross, said its core fund-raising over the last six months, which excludes disaster-related giving, was up roughly 10 percent, a much faster pace than it experienced in the first half of its fiscal year, which ends June 30. The organization expects to raise a total of $839 million this year, compared to $1.06 billion in the previous fiscal year, which includes the outpouring of gifts to support relief work after the Haitian earthquake.

“We’re expecting fund-raising revenue to be up at least 5 percent year over year in fiscal 2012,” Mr. Litvack said. “It’s bold, but we’ve gotten some great television coverage this spring” — of Red Cross work to address tornado– and flood-related disasters — “and are using some new technologies internally that should help us make that goal.”

This year, Giving USA made adjustments to the methodology it used to estimate charitable donations, which had been criticized in the last two years for producing overly rosy estimates. The changes decreased its original estimates of total giving in 2008 and 2009 to an inflation-adjusted $303.76 billion and $284.85 billion, respectively, from $307.65 billion and $303.75 billion.

“The economic literature suggest that in what is a period of greater uncertainty and economic volatility it made more sense to take a look at the model and make some adjustments,” Mr. Rooney said.

Giving by individuals, which accounts for the bulk of total charitable giving, rose just 1.1 percent to $211.77 billion, compared with corporate giving, which rose 8.8 percent to $15.29 billion. Corporate giving figures include values placed by companies on non-cash gifts like drugs.

KaBOOM!, an organization that builds playgrounds to help increase physical activity among children, benefited from that increase, raising about the same amount in 2010 as it did in 2009, when it took in $19.1 million, according to its chief financial officer, Gerry Megas.

This year, donations are up in part because of the publication of “KaBOOM! How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play,” a memoir by Darrell Hammond, the organization’s founder, which has raised awareness of the charity. “Darrell’s book has opened up some more attention to the cause, and that’s been good for us,” Mr. Megas said.

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