PMA Consulting, LLC

Giving USA Report Encouraging in Current Environment

The much anticipated Giving USA report was released recently, and it was not surprising that charitable giving declined in 2008 from the previous year. However, it is noteworthy that despite the relative severity of the country’s economic condition, Americans’ philanthropy did not decline in a similar fashion. In fact, Americans gave the second highest dollar amount to charity – an estimated $307.65 billion – since Giving USA began reporting on American philanthropy in 1956. Giving to religious institutions, public society benefit and international affairs actually increased in 2008. Giving to other non-profit sectors, while lower than 2007, actually held within traditional patterns which resulted in 2008 aggregate giving totaling 2.2 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product.

It is also encouraging to note that individual giving led the results. Of all the money estimated to have been given in the United States in 2008, 82 percent was provided by individuals (including 7 percent in the form of bequests). Foundation giving accounted for 13 percent of the total and corporate giving accounted for 5 percent, which is consistent with previous years. Once again this provides a cautionary note to nonprofits that put disproportionate time and energy into their foundation and corporate giving initiatives.  While these categories certainly should not be ignored, the great majority of giving potential still lies with individual donors.

While overall philanthropy declined slightly during 2008, the fact that total giving remained at the same level as in 2007 as a percentage of the GDP speaks eloquently to the long-standing culture of philanthropy in our country. Challenges still loom on the philanthropic horizon, but I think there are messages of encouragement embedded in these numbers. Despite some of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, giving in the United States continues to be an integral part of our culture. Budgetary challenges weigh heavily on the psyche of our nonprofits, but those that continue to engage and involve the philanthropic support of both wealthy and average Americans will remain strong. Now more than ever organizations must concentrate on their missions and effectively tell their stories clearly and creatively.

Is your organization telling its story clearly and creatively?  That is the first topic we’ll discuss when you partner with Patton McDowell & Associates.