27 posts categorized "Charity"

[Infographic] It Was a Very Good Year for Social Giving

December 15, 2012

"Just as social media has changed how we live, it’s now transforming the way we give."

That's the conclusion of MDG Advertising, the shop behind our Saturday Infographic of the Week.

From to to bottom, the infographic looks at online giving and the channels charities leverage most (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn -- in that order); offers details on donor characteristics; looks at a recent example of an online giving campaign that went viral; and ends with some trends and tips.


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[Infographic] The Danger of Capping Deductions

December 11, 2012

Like deer in the headlights, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have spent the last five weeks paralyzed by the approach of the so-called fiscal cliff.  While the White House and Congress appear to be moving closer to a deal that would delay or avoid the worst effects of the cliff, the details of such a deal remain murky.

One thing that has surfaced repeatedly in negotiations between the two sides, however, is a cap on various tax deductions, including the deduction for charitable giving. As the infographic from the National Council of Nonprofits below suggests, such a cap would have an adverse impact on charitable donations -- and, by extension, local communities.

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The Stars Come Out for Sandy Relief and Recovery

November 09, 2012

Sandy_coasterSuperstorm Sandy's devastating impact on the East Coast resulted in the loss of more than a hundred lives, thousands being displaced from their homes, power outages that affected millions, and crippling disruptions of the region’s mass transit systems. The estimated financial cost of the storm may exceed $50 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

In the aftermath of a disaster like Sandy, it's not unusual to see celebrities donating their time and money to relief and recovery efforts, and this disaster is no different. According to the most recent edition of the Foundation Center's Celebrity Foundation Directory, total giving by celebrity foundations exceeds $15 billion. As the center continues to track the response to Sandy, we're again seeing celebrities step up to donate their money and talents to help those affected by the storm. Here are a few examples:

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 3-4, 2012)

November 04, 2012

Sandy_recoveryOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Society

On the NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Niki Jagpal discusses a recent article from the Poverty & Race Research Action Council about the "unsettling statistics on the status of voting rights in our country." According to PRRAC, voter identification laws, early voting restrictions, purging of "legitimate registered voters because of baseless suspicion of their citizenship status," and felon disenfranchisement continue to marginalize low-income individuals, communities of color, younger voters, and the elderly.

Disaster Relief

In the days following the devastating landfall of Superstorm Sandy near Cape May, New Jersey, nonprofit bloggers were busy sharing resources for those interested in contributing to relief and recovery efforts. On her Have Fun, Do Good blog, Britt Bravo has compiled a list of articles and Web sites that suggest ways to donate and volunteer; Idealist's Allison Jones has a few additional suggestions for New Yorkers looking to get involved in relief and recovery efforts; and longtime New Jersey resident Nancy Schwartz suggests three organizations on the ground in that state -- the NYC Rescue Mission, the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey -- that are "providing services right now and need your help to keep it up."

Looking at the response to the storm through a tech/data lens, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz tracks, in a series of posts, the many ways in which organizations and individuals used information communication technologies during and after the storm, while the Weakonomist looks at how Sandy might affect the economy.

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Whither Livestrong? 5 Questions for...Leslie Lenkowsky

October 18, 2012

After years in the public eye, first as a world-famous athlete who won the grueling Tour de France, the crown jewel of international cycling, a record seven consecutive times, and subsequently for his central role in a still-unfolding doping scandal, American Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, resigned on Wednesday as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded some fifteen years ago. Hours later, Nike, one of Armstrong's biggest sponsors, dropped him as a spokesperson -- and was soon joined by half a dozen other Armstrong sponsors.

Earlier today, PND spoke with Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, about the Armstrong scandal and its likely effect on Livestrong. Lenkowsky, who writes and speaks frequently about nonprofit management and governance issues, has served as a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, as president of the Hudson Institute and the Philanthropy Roundtable, and as CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Lenkowsky_headshotPhilanthropy News Digest: Which surprises you more: Lance Armstrong's decision to step down as chair of Livestrong, formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, or the fact he waited till now?

Leslie Lenkowsky: That he waited until now. In fact, leadership of the organization has been passing from him to others for quite a long time. Stepping down now inevitably makes his decision look like it's related to the doping accusations. Since he is planning to stay on the board, he would have done better to make the transition earlier. But in many nonprofits, founders have a way of staying a bit too long.

PND: Close association with a celebrity can be a slippery slope for an organization, especially when the celebrity's name is on the letterhead. Do you think Livestrong's efforts to broaden its appeal beyond Armstrong will be enough to keep it from seeing a significant drop in its revenues?

LL: Yes. Livestrong has a very diversified base of support, lots of members and chapters, good national partners, and, most importantly, a well-developed set of programs. It has long since outgrown its association with Armstrong, and while his troubles may weaken his value for the organization's events and in other ways, they won't produce a significant drop in revenues.

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Romney, Ryan, and Charity

August 16, 2012

(Mark Rosenman, a Washington-based scholar-activist and director of Caring to Change, a D.C.-based effort to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he argued that nonprofits are missing from critical policy debates.)

Rosenman_headshotWith the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate, Mitt Romney has changed the stakes of the 2012 presidential race. Well beyond Republican versus Democrat, the question now before Americans is who we are as a nation and a people. Over the next four years, we must make decisions about public responsibility for the common good, about what we expect of government, and of what we expect of one another. The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors cannot afford to ignore this debate.

Developed by the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee and already passed by the House of Representatives, the so-called "Ryan Plan" would have an immediate impact on many nonprofits, especially those serving low- and moderate-income people. Ultimately, however, it would affect each and every area of government support for charitable causes.

Indeed, after announcing Ryan as his running mate, candidate Romney issued a statement trying to distance himself from the plan, even though previously he had described it as "marvelous" and said he was "on the same page" as Ryan in terms of budget priorities. Charities are prohibited involvement in electoral politics, but helping to shape a public discussion about policy and our values as a nation is essential; nonprofit and foundation leaders must declare which page they are on.

Before we take a closer look at the unfolding debate, let me point out that Mitt Romney has himself already proposed similar policies. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concludes, for example, that Romney's detail-deprived proposal for tax reform would give the wealthiest Americans a significant tax cut while imposing tax increases on the remaining 95 percent of Americans.

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Nonprofits Missing From Big Battles

June 06, 2012

(Mark Rosenman, a Washington-based scholar-activist and director of Caring to Change, a D.C.-based effort to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, Rosenman and co-author Gary D. Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation, wrote about efforts by Congress to curtail the advocacy rights of nonprofits.)

Rosenman_headshotWe are seven months from what some are calling "taxmageddon" and others describe as a "fiscal cliff." And while leaders in the nonprofit sector are narrowly focused on proposed changes to the charitable tax deduction that could reduce charitable donations by about $2 billion a year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already approved cutting trillions of dollars from programs critical to low- and moderate-income people and the charities that serve them.

Charities and foundations should be gearing up to confront immediate and near-term policy battles of extraordinary consequence to them. Instead, they seem to be wearing blinders -- or simply fear controversy, no matter the stakes.

Congressional Republicans seem to want a repeat of last summer's divisive struggle over raising the debt limit and are committed to pursuing new budget cuts. This comes after the House recently approved changes to last year's deficit-cutting sequestration agreement and shifted what was a shared annual burden of $109 billion entirely to domestic programs.

House Republicans also are trying to preserve Bush-era income tax cuts for wealthy Americans, an action that if successful will cost an estimated $1 trillion in revenue over ten years -- and doesn't include the loss of billions in revenue from estate tax reductions for millionaires. They have already passed the budget put together by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a plan that goes well beyond a renewal of the Bush cuts and give millionaires an additional tax break averaging $265,000 a year while cutting over $3 trillion from programs that serve low-income people or fund the charitable programs that help them.

This is not chump change. To give you a sense of the magnitude of the proposed cuts, the shift in sequestration alone is more than the total annual giving of all U.S. foundations combined. And the so-called Ryan plan calls for cuts in domestic program over ten years that are about seven times the equivalent projected total of foundation giving -- a shortfall that would result in some two million people losing their access to food stamps and another forty-four million having them reduced. The Ryan plan also would eliminate the social service block grant through which nonprofits now provide services to some twenty-three million people, over half of them children, as well as invalids dependent on Meals on Wheels programs, those in foster care, and those who rely on nonprofit childcare.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 12-13, 2012)

May 13, 2012

Mothers_dayOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On her About.com blog, Joanne Fritz says nonprofit communicators don't always "make it easy for people like me to share their information" via social media. If they really want to get their message out, adds Fritz, organizations should blog frequently, add images to their posts, use video when possible, encourage retweets on Twitter, and add RSS feeds to their online platforms.


On the AFP blog, Reed Stockton shares findings from a recent study which found that nearly $1.5 billion was raised through some 350 crowdfunding platforms globally in 2011.

On the Minnesota Council on Foundations' Philanthropy Potluck blog, Anne Bauers looks at the Nonprofit Finance Fund's recently released State of the Sector survey, which found, among other things, that many nonprofits are "feeling distant from their funders."

Maybe, as the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Sean Dobson notes, that's because the percentage of foundation grant dollars awarded for general operating support remained stuck at 22 percent in 2009 and 2010. It's a shame, writes Dobson, because in an uncertain economy, general operating support is "an endowment-friendly way [for foundations] to build stronger... grantees." 


Ellen Remmer, president and CEO of the Philanthropic Initiative, explains why a growing number of community foundations are making investments designed to "produce a social (including environmental) and financial return." Writes Remmer:

They believe they can have a deeper and more sustained impact in their communities by adding this tool to the toolbox, particularly for some issue areas such as housing, sustainable economic development, healthy lifestyles (think local food), etc. They are compelled by the opportunity to "recycle" philanthropic dollars and augment the amount of capital committed to social change. And they believe that a broader group of social investors will be attracted to this approach for community improvement than their traditional cadre of donors.

Could community foundations become standard bearers for impact investing? Could they play an educational, brokering or even leadership role for donor investors and the recipient organizations? There are plenty of barriers to realizing the full potential of this evolving form of social investment; but my bet is that community foundations could -- if they choose -- play a key role....

Poverty Alleviation

Over at the Huffington Post's Impact blog, Maurice Lim Miller, founder and CEO of the Family Independence Initiative, reminds us that charity can be a double-edged sword. "The ability to make choices, determine our plan of action, and be in control are essential to achieving mobility and stability in our society," writes Miller. But while

everyone faces problems and needs help at some point, the programs and services for low-income people treat them as unable to make their own choices -- as charity cases. A charity case isn't simply someone who needs resources; the term carries pathos. "Charity case" does not breed confidence, self-respect, or affirm any sense of self-determination. If we really want people who are low-income to have the opportunity to get ahead, we need a new model....

Social Media

Last but not least, Allison Fine suggests in a post on the Harvard Business Review blog that what it means to be "professional" in the workplace has changed. "For most people over forty," writes Fine,

it means wearing a uniform of some kind, talking in a certain language, carrying a briefcase (or more recently a Blackberry or iPhone), and perhaps, most important, keeping one's private life private. Gen Y, or Millennials -- late teens to thirty year-olds -- have a vastly different notion of what it means to present oneself to the world wearing their business hat (so to speak). The huge organizational chasm between Gen Y and Gen X and Boomers is less a technological problem than a psychological one, and it manifests itself in the use of social media....

Is she right? Do older professionals view social media as a threat to professional behavior? Is it changing what it means to be "professional"? Use the comments section to share your thoughts.

And drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org if we missed something. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

-- The Editors

Weekend Link Roundup (March 3-4, 2012)

March 04, 2012

Lion_lambOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

African Americans

In a followup to her post last week on NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Niki Jagpal reminds of us how Black History Month came to be and, with an eye to this year's theme, asks others to share their stories "about the innumerable contributions that our African American sisters have made to our culture and society and the role that they play today in philanthropy in the continuing struggle for equity and justice."


On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz makes the case for marketing as the key driver of "how your organization builds and strengthens [its] relationships with the people whose help you need to move your mission forward." If your organization isn't paying attention to how it markets itself, adds Schwartz, it's "losing out on the potential to develop more and stronger relationships."


On his Open Book blog, David Roodman shares a couple of charts illustrating the rise and decline of Indian microfinance.

Nonprofit Management

Over at the Nonprofit Quarterly, Kate Barr and Ruth McCambridge take issue with the findings of a recent report from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University which surveyed 526 nonprofit financial managers at midsize charities -- those with revenues between $1 million and $5 million -- and concluded that many of those professionals have gaps in their financial knowledge. Write Barr and McCambridge:

The report is heralded by a press release entitled "Gaps in Financial Knowledge Challenge Mid-Size Nonprofits" but there is no information in the survey results or even in the report that supports the claim that the nonprofits represented have any particular or acute challenges that could not be explained by a bad economy. In fact, about half have more than four months of operating funds in the bank and about a quarter have more than seven months' worth....

In the Spring issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Peter Kim and Jeffrey Bradach look at a few themes that provide insight into what has shaped, and will continue to shape, the growth of a new class of super-sized, $50 million-plus nonprofits.

Social Good

Using examples from the recent Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, Geoff Livingston, vice president of strategic partnerships at Razoo, offers sixteen tips on the Case Foundation blog for nonprofit organizations and funders looking to participate in a giving day or other online social good contest.

Elsewhere, the Acumen Fund's Sasha Dichter shares an interview at Say100 Media in which he explains why Generosity Day, a day-long event in February that sought to inspire generous acts nationwide, was a success.

Social Media

Facebook is now making its Timeline format available to organizations with a brand page. To help nonprofits get started, social media guru Beth Kanter offers a list of tips in a post on her blog.


In a guest post on the Communications Network blog, Philanthomedia's Susan Herr shares a video in which Foundation Center president Brad Smith explains why foundations have a responsibility to communicate their role in driving social change.

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- The Editors

Weekend Link Roundup (February 11-12, 2012)

February 12, 2012

Abraham-lincolnOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector...


Charity Navigator's Sandra Miniutti has a few suggestions for people interested in participating in Generosity Day on Tuesday, February 14. A day-long event inspired by Sasha Dichter's month-long "generosity experiment," the social media-driven campaign aims to "make Valentine's Day about more than flowers, chocolates, and romantic dinners...."


In a guest post on the Communications Network blog, Chris Palmedo of the Northwest Health Foundation notes that his efforts "to seamlessly integrate communications with program work" goes beyond "making sure program staff 'loops us in' on their work....It's more like 'mutual challenge,' where program and communications push each other -- and the organization -- toward a common vision of social change." Communications and program staff and grantees challenge one another to write op-eds, blog entries, and letters to the editor, Palmedo writes, and to spend program dollars on videos and messaging. After all, he asks, "how can an organization be committed to social change without being fully committed to communications, media relations, and messaging your point of view everywhere it can?"

In a post on her blog, author and consultant Kivi Leroux Miller offers a few recommendations for the folks at Susan G. Komen for the Cure as the organization works to repair its badly damaged brand.


In the first of a planned series of six posts, GiveWell's Holden Karnofksy and Elie Hassenfeld review the progress the organization made in 2011 and some of its key metrics.


In a post here on PhilanTopic, Foundation Center president Brad Smith responds to recent concerns expressed by a number of foundation leaders about the data and methodology behind Foundation Funding for Hispanics/Latinos in the United States and Latin America, a new Foundation Center study commissioned by Hispanics in Philanthropy. The criticism, writes Smith, "speak[s] to the nature of philanthropy, its role in furthering the public good, and the growing challenge of transparency in a digital, data-driven age...."

"To my colleagues who toil in foundations across the country: There's still time for us, before the confusion and wonder of the spring, to understand, to broach the subject of inequality, to mediate, and, if we dare, to speak the truth as each of us sees it," writes GNOFpresident Albert Ruesga on the White Courtesy Telephone blog. "I know how unlikely this is to happen. But how reckless it will be for us to wait until the rage boils over and takes us past the point of honest and constructive deliberation...."

Social Entrepreneurship

Over at the Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington chats with Goodwill Industries International president and CEO Jim Gibbons about how the century-old organization continues to push the envelop and innovate in today's competitive marketplace. "At Goodwill," says Gibbons, "we don't think of innovation as the creation of the next iPhone, but rather as the next idea that allows us to serve the communities we’re a part of in the most meaningful and impactful way...."

Social Media

Allison Fine has announced the relaunch of her Social Good podcast series, which henceforth will focus on matching "great organizations with great coaches who can help them navigate" the fast-moving world of social media. In this week's installment, Fine chats with Get Storied founder Michael Margolis and InvisblePeople.tv founder Mark Horvath about the art of storytelling.

Although it's targeted to small business owners and for-profit social media marketers, Phil Mershon's take on Susan Etlinger’s recommendations for leveraging social media is a must read for any organization interested in getting more out of its social media efforts.

Last but not least, See3 Communications and YouTube are now accepting submissions for the 2012 DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards, which "recognize the creative and effective use of video to promote the work of the nonprofit sector in catalyzing social good."

That's it for this week. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org!

-- The Editors

2011 Year in Review: A Tale of Two Economies

December 28, 2011

It was a year of bruising budget battles and unnerving debt crises, of economic recovery and retreat, of the 99% and the 1%. For many, it was simply the "new normal."

After three years of economic hardship, stress, and uncertainty, the year opened on an optimistic note, with a handful of announcements and surveys seeming to find many Americans feeling better about their prospects.

In January, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the nation's largest donor-advised fund program, reported it had received more than $1.6 billion in contributions in 2010, a 42 percent increase over the previous year, and had authorized more than $1 billion in grants for the fourth consecutive year. That same month, the annual Dunham+Company New Year's Survey found that the number of households planning to boost their charitable giving in the coming year had jumped nearly 30 percent, while the number that planned to cut back on giving was down nearly 50 percent. And the Minnesota Council on Foundations' 2011 Outlook Report found that 35 percent of the foundations surveyed expected to boost their giving in 2011, while only 10 percent expected to give less.

The somewhat more constructive tone did little, however, to change the fact that millions of Americans were struggling to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table, and/or secure gainful employment -- or that nonprofits, as a survey conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund found, expected to see increased demand for their services. Further clouding the picture for nonprofits, especially so-called "lifeline" organizations, was the highly partisan debate in Washington over the 2012 federal budget -- and the likely impact of funding cuts on an already frayed social safety net.

As spring turned to summer, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the possibility of the first-ever downgrade of long-term U.S. debt sent markets tumbling, threatening the fragile economic recovery at home and causing many charities and fundraisers to brace for the worst. But a last-minute (if temporary) debt-ceiling deal in Congress, collective (if halting) action by European countries and the ECB to stem the crisis in the eurozone, and steady (if modest) improvement in the U.S. economy helped to forestall the dreaded double-dip scenario -- for the time being.

As a result, by December many Americans were again feeling better about the future. Indeed, with the new year right around the corner, a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey found that donation income at more than half the charities it polled was running ahead of last year's holiday season total -- and that donations at one in five organizations were up by more than 20 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

At the same time, a distressing number of charities continued to report that income remained below pre-recession levels and that demand for assistance was rising faster than giving, while more than a few were looking to collaborations, mergers, and joint ventures to meet that demand.

"A much larger percentage of nonprofits were seeing significantly higher fundraising results before the recession," said Andrew Watt, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, in September. "[And] with many economists predicting a flat economy for several more years, charities face a very challenging environment in the near future….This is the reality charities will have to address."

Related Links:

Minnesota Grantmakers Optimistic About 2011, Report Finds (1/13/11)

Contributions to Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund Surpassed $1.6 Billion in 2010 (1/17/11)

Americans More Optimistic About Giving in 2011, Survey Finds (1/19/11)

President's Budget Calls for Cuts in Support for Nonprofits (2/15/11)

Kresge Foundation Awards $6 Million to Safety-Net Initiative Recipients (2/22/11)

As Economy Improves, Giving By Ohio Foundations Beginning to Recover (2/26/11)

Nonprofits Expect Increased Demand for Their Services in 2011, Survey Finds (3/22/11)

Foundation Giving Held Steady in 2010, Study Finds (4/08/11)

Dayton Nonprofits Pool Resources to Stay in Business (4/08/11)

Cleveland-Area Nonprofits Merge to Reduce Costs (4/19/11)

Marin Community Foundation Awards $2 Million to Bolster Healthcare Safety Net (4/30/11)

Foundation, Operating Charities Report Investment Returns of 12 Percent (5/25/11)

Charitable Giving Up Modestly in 2010, 'Giving USA' Finds (6/21/11)

Pittsburgh-Area Nonprofits in 'Merger Mode' (7/08/11)

Charities, Fundraisers Consider Possibility of Double-Dip Recession (8/09/11)

Foundations Concerned About Possible Double-Dip Recession (8/11/11)

Charity Fundraising Saw No Change During First Half of 2011, Report Finds (9/29/11)

Donations to Largest Charities Still Below Pre-Recession Levels (10/18/11)

Donations Are Up for 2011 Giving Season, Survey Finds (12/25/11)

'Giving USA', 2011 Edition

June 20, 2011

GivingUSA The annual Giving USA report was released earlier today, and the headline number -- charitable giving totaled $290.89 billion in 2010, up from a revised estimate of $280.30 billion in 2009 -- failed to generate any real enthusiasm. In a year that saw equity markets and endowment values rebound sharply from the dark days of 2008 and 2009, the estimated increase represents growth of just 2.1 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Before we get to some of the commentary, here are a few other numbers from the report:

Giving by type of donor

  • Individual giving was up an estimated 2.7 percent (1.1 percent in inflation-adjusted terms), to $211.77 billion.
  • According to the Foundation Center, foundation grantmaking by private, community, and operating foundations fell 0.2 percent (-1.8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to $41 billion.
  • Charitable bequests rose 18.8 percent (16.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $22.83 billion.
  • Corporate giving was up 10.6 percent (8.8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $15.29 billion.

Giving by type of recipient

  • Representing 35 percent of overall contributions, giving to religion was up 0.8 percent (-0.8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $100.63 billion 
  • Giving to education increased 5.2 percent (3.5 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $41.67 billion.
  • Giving to foundations (private, operating, and community) rose 1.9 percent (0.2 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to $33 billion.
  • Giving to human services was up 0.1 percent (-1.5 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $26.49 billion. This includes most of the $1.43 billion donated for Haiti disaster relief; ex Haiti, giving for human services would have declined 4 percent (-5.6 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars).
  • Giving to public-society benefit organizations (e.g., United Way, United Jewish Appeal, Combined Federal campaign, freestanding donor-advised funds like the Fidelity Charitabel Gift Fund) increased 6.2 percent (4.5 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $24.24 billion.
  • Giving to health rose 1.3 percent (-0.3 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $22.83 billion.
  • Giving to international affairs jumped 15.3 percent (13.5 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $15.77 billion.
  • Giving to arts and culture rose 5.7 percent (4.1 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $13.28 billion.
  • Giving to environment/animal-related organizations fell 0.7 percent (-2.3 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $6.66 billion.

Downward revisions

  • The report also revised downward estimates for total giving in 2008 and 2009 --from $307.65 billion and $303.75 billion, respectively, to $303.65 billion and $280.30 billion.

The glass-half-full nature of the report was captured by Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, who called the inflation-adjusted increase of 2.1 percent in overall giving "good news." But, added Rooney, "the sobering reality is that many nonprofits are still hurting, and if giving continues to grow at this rate, it will take five or six more years just to return to the level of giving we saw before the Great Recession."

In the Nonprofit Times, sector veteran Elizabeth Boris, director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, echoed that sentiment: "It seems like we've gone quite a ways back in the giving and it's going to take us a long time to recover, unless the economy takes a giant step forward." Boris also noted the significant revision to the 2009 data: "It makes me a bit concerned...talking about $280 billion in 2009; you have to go all the way back to 2003 or 2004 to see numbers like that."

Elsewhere, the Nonprofit Quarterly's Ruth McCambridge and Rick Cohen thought the picture painted by the report was "alarming," in that the numbers suggested "a significant disinvestment in people in need on the domestic front." And they cautioned fundraisers not to assume that "the unending generosity of the American charitable donor will win out."

But what most concerns McCambridge and Cohen about this year's report (as Phil Cubeta picked up on in his Gift Hub blog) is the evidence it offers for a growing "class divide" in society and the nonprofit sector. "What the Giving USA numbers suggest," they write,

is not only a crisis of declining charitable giving reaching human services or social safety net groups, but a class divide where the groups that do well in charitable solicitations are those with connections, with the social class interrelationships that give them automatic access. Meanwhile, charitable giving for human services is very much the province of the less moneyed donors, the payroll deduction donors, the people who volunteer at the shelter or food pantry or clinic because they know the tangible importance of those institutions to their communities....

Just as corporate CEO compensation is now back at pre-recession levels even while joblessness persists, the needs of the poor and of the organizations that serve the poor have virtually disappeared from political discourse and from the priority lists of philanthropy. And the incentives -- bequests, IRA rollovers, etc. -- flow toward the institutions with the fundraising infrastructures and the social connections to major donors....

What do you think? Were you surprised by anything in this year's report? Do you expect overall giving in 2011 to be up more than the 2.1 percent we saw in 2010? Do the numbers in this year's report reflect the growing inequality in American society? And is it time, as McCambridge and Cohen suggest in their article, to rethink the incentives built into our charitable giving structure in a way that addresses that inequality?

CORRECTION, June 22, 11:50 a.m.: The original version of this post mistakenly attributed the first paragraph of the quote above to Gift Hub blogger Phil Cubeta. The graph in question actually was part of an insightful piece written by the Nonprofit Quarterly's Ruth McCambridge and Rick Cohen. Thanks to the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence's Fayre Crossley for bringing the misattribution to my attention. And my apologies to Ruth and Rick for the mistake.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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