Americans Still Generous Even in Troubled Times

For some nonprofits, surviving in a time of a down economy is a double-edged sword. As both corporate and private donors tighten their belts, giving tends to trend downward. Yet, as the global economy continues to falter, demand for those same nonprofits increases. These organizations are faced with the very real problem of trying to fill a growing need with diminishing resources.

I read with interest Tuesday’s reports from the Giving USA Foundation, who does an annual report on how much American’s gave to charity the prior year. In 2007, Americans gave more generously than they ever had before – to the tune of more than $3 billion dollars. Tuesday’s report indicated that while that number had fallen during the economically turbulent months of 2008, that figure still remained above $3 billion, a generous amount, given that Americans as a whole “lost 2 percent of their wealth last year.

Still, even with the smallest of declines, nonprofits have been hit as hard as anyone else by the rough economy. People nationwide are struggling to make ends meet, to keep the lights on, their children fed and clothed. Food banks, community service programs, children’s programs and other organizations providing first-line relief are feeling the pinch more than ever, especially in some of the hardest-hit communities.

There is good news however; individuals are still contributing – even if it is slightly less. In 2008, individuals contributed an estimated $229.3 billion (more than 2/3 of all charitable giving!) – a rate of giving that fell less than corporate donations. And corporate giving as a part of the gross domestic product still hovers just above 2%.

This means that even in our toughest times, Americans are still striving to be generous people, carving out something for those less fortunate, even if it means a smaller amount. It may also be good in the long run for some nonprofits, as their leaner operations may pave the way to more transparency, better operations and more efficiency.

In the last few months, we have certainly seen evidence of incredibly generous donors, as well as improved efficiency in the way charities are thinking. I hope that this generosity and this collaboration and move to efficiency continue, because even with recent signs that the economic downfall may be slowing, it’s going to be a long time before the least of us is back on his or her feet – and there are so many programs in need of help as we say … Until Every Child is OK.



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