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Charities forecast a steep drop in giving

Marketplace Staff Oct 26, 2009

Charities forecast a steep drop in giving

Marketplace Staff Oct 26, 2009


Bill Radke: The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports this morning the nation’s biggest charities are forecasting a 9 percent decline in giving this year. That would be the steepest drop since the group started tracking private donations in the early 90s. Stacy Palmer is the editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Good morning.

Stacy Palmer: Hi. Happy to be with you.

Radke: A 9 percent drop. How seriously will this cut in to the work these charities are doing?

Palmer: It’s a very dramatic amount of money for charities to be down. Many of them have already been taking cost-cutting measures. They’ve laid off staff members, they’ve done every efficiency they can. So at this point, it’s going to start cutting into services.

Radke: Will you give us an illustration of how charities are responding to the fall off?

Palmer: One of the things most nonprofits are doing is really looking at what is the thing they do that is most essential. And so if there’s one kind of program that they think perhaps somebody else might be able to take care of, they’re looking at that. They don’t want to just give up on people. And one of the challenges charities face isn’t just that they have to serve as many people as they did last year, most of the time they have to serve many, many more people. So they’re looking at ways to do that more efficiently depending on what it is that they’re working on.

Radke: How does a charity tell people to give when, for example, unemployment is still rising?

Palmer: One of the things most nonprofits are very aware of is that some people don’t have jobs and they can’t appeal to them, so they’re focusing on the people who are affluent still and who still have money to give. They’re very careful to not make a pitch to somebody who can’t afford to give.

Radke: Goldman Sachs employees, are you listening?

Palmer: There’s talk about them giving a billion-dollar donation from Goldman Sachs, so that could indeed be a good place for many charities to turn to.

Radke: What’s an area where charitable giving is actually rising?

Palmer: One of the groups that did really well on our survey was Teach For America, which went to its donors and said, “We’re being flooded with applicants, people want to teach in schools and we’ve got all these kids who really want to go into the schools and do great things.” So they appealed to their donors and said we need a growth fund, and they brought in $80 million. They had only asked for $50 million. So it was a tremendous example of people responding when a charity asks for money, and explained what they’re going to do with the money.

Radke: Stacy Palmer edits The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Stacy, thank you.

Palmer: Thank you very much.

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