Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Giving USA 2009 Report - What’s the Impact of the Economy on Giving in 2008 and Some Thoughts for 2009

Giving USA released its 2009 report today and I participated in the online discussion with the researchers hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy at Noon today. Like other bloggers, I am blogging today about the report. First of all I don’t see any surprises here. The Giving USA Report is like the bible of giving data and really gets a lot of press attention but the findings are really similar to lesser status studies done in the last six months. The scope and credibility of this report confirms what we thought we knew (Just in case that was important to you.)

Here are the major findings:

Giving did decline in 2008 by -2% or -5.7% adjusted for inflation –that’s over $6 B, not a small piece of change. This is the first decline since 1987 and the biggest percentage decline since 1974. The biggest percentage decline was in corporate giving followed by individuals and bequests. Foundation giving actually increased by 3%. Some foundation giving is really individual giving as foundations set up by living individuals is becoming more popular. Before we get too alarmed lets note that it is only the second year ever that giving topped $300B.

Two thirds of charities experienced a lower level of donations in 2008 but the only surprise was that this included human services. Previously we thought there would be increased giving in this sector. Giving USA did a separate analysis of the Human Services Sector sector this year and here are the key findings:

•54% of human services organizations reported an increased demand in 2008
•60% of these charities are cutting staff and budgets for 2009-06-10
•74% of youth development charities report being underfunded or severely underfunded and unable to meet current demand – this was the largest hit group
•53% of those serving basic needs (food, shelter) report being underfunded
You can read the full press release for more details or buy the full report at:
Giving USA 2009 Press Release

The Chronicle of Philanthropy discussion was concentrated on what to do in 2009 and there was lots of common sense, down-to-earth advice. For example, concentrate on individual giving and building relationships. Engage Boards in being involved with individual giving. Ted Druat of Convio answered the question about trends in online giving quoting a recent Convio study. First quarter 2009 is up 8% over first quarter 2008 and up 5% over fourth quarter 2008. Although its still small this is one more reinforcement that online giving cannot continue to be brushed off as not relevant.

There was good advice about general operating support. Donors want to give to something specific, and nonprofits are packaging the GOS as part of the cost of projects/programs. This makes sense to me and I think it is what should have been done all a long. The ED and payroll processor are part of the cost of the program and the relative amount of overhead should be part of the program cost. Recent studies all previously discussed in this blog were referenced in the discussion including the e-benchmarks, American Express, and Target Analytics studies.

Sean Stannard-Stockton at the Tactical Philanthropy blog made the best summary I’ve seen of the report: “the contraction was less than many people feared and the total amount given was within the range of the level of giving seen over the past few years...... Charitable giving behaved more or less as it normally does when the economy sours. This is, by most measures, the worst recession in a very long time and so we’re seeing charitable giving get hit. But it is only declining in line with the way it normally behaves.

Things are tough, but there was no apocalypse."

You can read Sean's whole post at:
"How Much Did Americans Really Give in 2008" at Tactical Philanthropy

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