Posted 10/16/2011, The Chronicle of Philanthropy by Noelle Barton and Raymund Flandez
The depressed economy has caused a significant drop in gifts to the nation’s 400 biggest charities, according to The Chronicle’s data. Since 2007, the charities suffered an overall drop in contributions of $6-billion, to $70.3-billion last year, when inflation is taken into account.
While the overall picture is stark, some charities did far better during the downturn than others. Among them:
• The Entertainment Industry Foundation (No. 104), whose donations increased 488 percent from 2007 to 2010, grew fast because of its star-studded Stand Up to Cancer event that took place in 2008 and 2010. The telethon collected more than $100-million. The foundation also hosted two television events that netted $70-million for relief efforts after the Haiti earthquake.
• The Omaha Community Foundation (No. 117) spurred creation of 383 donor-advised funds in the past six years by promising to match individual gifts of $1,000 to start such a fund. Donors can earmark the money for groups they want to support or let the money grow and then give it away later.
• Teach for America (No. 136) told donors it was attracting more high-achieving applicants than ever before because of the downturn. Such messages helped the charity increase the size of gifts from loyal donors. The group also shared with each of its affiliates the ideas that worked best to raise money, helping to spur a 146-percent increase in private support from 2007 to 2010.
Among groups that struggled during the past four years, two saw giving fall off after they ended major capital campaigns.
• Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (No. 373) had a capital campaign that supported a major redevelopment project in advance of the New York institution’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2009-2010. Its donations declined after the campaign concluded, falling 63 percent from 2007 to 2010.
• Conservation International (No. 374) ran a multiyear capital campaign that was so successful, it wrapped up in 2009, a year ahead of schedule. Donations fell off after the “Future for Life Campaign” ended, causing a drop of 64 percent from 2007 to 2010.