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Trends in Giving, Volunteering, and the Outlook for 2011

November 30, 2010

Nice chart from USA Today showing breakdown and trends in U.S. charitable giving:

USATodayNov10 

Click on the "Time" tab for an equally nice statistical portrait of volunteering by region:


USATodayNov10_2


(If you're reading this in e-mail, click here.)

And what about this year? According to a new survey (34 pages, PDF) by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) -- i.e., the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the Foundation Center, GuideStar USA, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics -- U.S. nonprofits saw a slight improvement in giving in the first nine months of 2010, although it hasn't been enough to help many nonprofits that are grappling with staff and/or service cuts even as demand for their services has increased.

Based on questions that GuideStar used for its annual economic survey and 2,513 responses, the survey found that 36 percent of charities reported an increase in donations in the first nine months of 2010, compared with only 23 percent in the same period of 2009; 37 percent reported a decline in giving, down from 51 percent in 2009; and 26 percent reported that giving was unchanged, up slightly from the 25 percent that reported the same thing in 2009.

"For the first time in two years, there is cause for cautious optimism about the nonprofit sector," said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of GuideStar. "Nonetheless, in this latest study, as in all prior years, nonprofits are also reporting increased demand for their services...."

The survey also found that:

  • In four of eight subsectors, the share of organizations reporting an increase in contributions was about the same as the share reporting a decrease. The four with nearly equal percentages of organizations with giving up and giving down were the arts, education, environment/animals, and human services.
  • International organizations were the most likely to report an increase in contributions, reflecting donations made for disaster relief.
  • In three subsectors -- health, public-society benefit, and religion -- a larger share of the organizations reported declines than reported increases.
  • The larger an organization's annual expenditures, the more likely it reported an increase in charitable receipts in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.

"Younger, less well-established nonprofits have been especially hard hit by the recession," noted Lawrence T. McGill, vice president for research at the Foundation Center. "Many foundations, seeking to maximize more limited resources, have steered their grantmaking toward organizations they believe have the best chance to weather the economic storm."

As for 2011, most organizations that responded to the survey were guardedly optimistic, with 47 percent saying they plan budget increases, 33 percent expecting to maintain their current level of expenditures, and 20 percent anticipating a smaller budget.

What about your organization? Do the survey results accurately reflect what’s going on in your area? Are revenues at your nonprofit higher than they were in 2009? And what about 2011? Is it shaping up as a better year for your organization? Worse? Or is it too early to tell?

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