Friday, September 26, 2008

Give until it hurts

As all of us observe one financial disaster after another and as we worry about how the suffering US economy will impact each of us and our loved ones, the question that keeps getting asked of Charity Navigator is - What does all of this mean for the charities we care about? As noted in earlier Charity Navigator blog entries, the future is not looking good for most charities for quite some time to come. Certain sectors, such as food banks, health care, housing providers and community development agencies are expected to be especially hard hit. Unless an agency has socked away a rainy day fund of working capital, layoffs, acquisitions and closures are expected to rise.

Public charities are critical to service provision and knowledge generation in this country. For us to grow the economy up and out of its doldrums, charities will be needed to play a critical role. They will be needed to provide a net to catch those who suffer as a result of job loss and associated miseries, as well as provide a voice to help educate the public and policy makers regarding the best directions for us take to resolve our problems as quickly as possible.

When adjusted for inflation individual charitable giving fell slightly last year. Imagine what this year is going to be like. You might think that charities will do fine without your giving as much as in the past. That is not the case! I know from 30 years of providing human and health care services that private dollars are the most important part of agency funding, because those dollars can be used for the unexpected surges in demand for services as we are seeing now. As government and corporate giving continues to decline, when services are needed more desperately than ever, it is individual donors that can make the difference to save the day.

So as we enter the fall giving season, which is when the largest share of individual contributions are made to charities, you as a donor are needed more than ever to step up to the plate. As scary as these times are and as much inclined as you are to cut back on your giving, I implore you to be as generous as you possibly can. American generosity, which is far greater than that of any other country in the world, needs to continue to shine in these dark financial times.


M said...

I would like to note that as head of fundraising for an organization over the last five years, it's more apparent to me than ever that literally every cent counts. Even if all you can give is $2, think about 100 people giving $2-- that $200 could be what buys a piece of equipment, or food for people who can't leave their houses. Nonprofits understand keenly what's happening and while those 100 people giving $200 would be a godsend, $200 is better than not getting anything at all.

Ken Berger said...


Agreed. As with many things at the moment, better half a loaf than no loaf at all.


Astraea said...

It would be nice if charities all felt appreciative as M does! My experience is that no matter how generous you are, some charities immediately hit you with another solicitation. Some list the amount you allegedly gave last, requesting you increase your donation. Sometimes forms list multiple donation levels to be checked off, and I think they use the value of your last donation as the minimum amount on the form, forcing/guilting people into giving on a higher level.

I also remember a Charity Navigator article saying that if you give less than $100, it's almost not worth it for the charity, because it barely covered mailings & administration. With an attitude like that, no wonder some people just don't give at all!

M said...

Astraea, I actually can agree with you on that one to an extent-- I'm operating now under the assumption that there's a LOT of solicitation done through e-mails and websites (that's certainly where I get all of mine) which is generally free or next to free. But you know what they say about assumptions...!

Ken Berger said...


Our concern about giving small amounts to a lot of charities is that you will not have the same impact as when you give larger amounts to a smaller number. There is no magic formula for this.