Envelopes are still being unsealed and checks processed, but early indications suggest that December brought mixed results for charity fund raising.
Many nonprofit groups reported significant drops that could force them to cut even deeper into the services they provide.
But other charities did well this December; in fact, some organizations seem to have done better than they anticipated, thanks to an unusually large number of donors who waited to give until just before the clock turned to midnight on January 1.
Catholic Charities USA, the national office that represents local Catholic Charities affiliates, had expected to fall several million dollars short of its $7.1-million goal for the year. But giving rallied at the end of December: Donations grew 21 percent that month compared with the same time last year, and the number of donors grew by 30 percent. Catholic Charities USA has so far recorded $6.6-million for 2009 and is still processing gifts.
Patricia Hvidston, senior vice president of development and communications, attributed the jump in part to advertising in magazines and in New York’s Times Square.
Scott Nichols, vice president of development and alumni relations at Boston University, where giving rose slightly this December compared with last, said donors are waiting longer to make gifts because of the economy’s volatility.
“People are so influenced by headlines and whether there will be a new short-term meltdown that will make them worry,” he said. “What used to be an October-November-December peak period became a November-December period, and it’s even been condensed now to the last two weeks of December.”
Shorter Donation Season
A comparison of two polls conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy also suggests that donors may be waiting longer to give. A third of the nearly 400 nonprofit groups that responded to a poll in mid-December said donations since November were higher than they had been at the same time in 2008.
Of 181 charities polled in early January, 48 percent said giving rose this holiday season.
Twenty-five of groups said giving had declined by at least 10 percent this holiday, while roughly 30 percent said it had increased by at least 10 percent.
Charities that responded to The Chronicle’s survey reported a variety of experiences in their year-end fund raising. Some fund raisers said they saw trends that bode well for 2010: donors who remarked last fall that it might be years until they could give again are contributing anew, for example. Organizations also reported an increase in stock gifts.
But many charities noted disturbing signs: donors who could not fulfill their pledges, fewer unrestricted gifts, and loyal donors giving smaller amounts than before the recession.
Charities that fared well in December included Network for Good and GlobalGiving, two nonprofit groups that collect gifts online. They raised 25 percent more and 67 percent more this December, respectively, than in the final month of 2008. Pomona College, in Claremont, Calif., recorded an unusually big December, raising $5.4-million that month compared with $3.2-million the previous December. Gifts that month accounted for 56 percent of the college’s donations from this July and December, compared with 41 percent in 2008.
Other charities said the holidays brought little cheer. The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle drive raised an estimated 11 percent less than in 2008, with decreases in all parts of the country except the West. Giving to Bethlehem Haven, a women’s shelter in Pittsburgh, declined by 22 percent in December compared with the same month in 2008.
This is an excerpt from an article that will appear in The Chronicle’s latest issue, which goes online on Monday. Print issues were sent to subscribers today.