A blog by Grant Montgomery, co-founder of Family Care Foundation, a 501c3 that provides emergency services and sustained development for communities, families and children on 5 continents. Articles and commentary on Philanthropy, Global Aid and Development.
To make up for funding gaps, many nonprofit organizations are working harder than ever before to reach donors through Facebook, Twitter and chain emails.
Often, however, the reality is that multiple charities are trying to reach the same donors, creating a potentially annoying situation.
“There’s a lot of great organizations,” said Travis DiNicola, executive director of Indy Reads, a nonprofit that works to improve literacy skills of adults. “But at some point, there’s only so many donors and so many dollars.”
Many leaders of nonprofits say it has allowed them to maximize the resources they have and cut out unnecessary ones. It also has taught them how to weather future economic downturns.
“There’s not a doom-and-gloom. I think that’s wrong,” says one director. “It’s just changed. So you rise up. You move on.”
Many of America’s biggest nonprofits have officially left the Great Recession behind, but the slow economic recovery continues to dampen results at even the most sophisticated fundraising organizations.
The 400 groups that raise the most from private sources achieved a median 7.5-percent gain last year. That’s much better than for the rest of the nonprofit world: Giving USA said charitable giving over all grew less than 1 percent last year.
But the outlook among the top 400 charities is far less optimistic for 2012, with nonprofits forecasting a median gain of less than 1 percent.
The new normal — nonprofit organizations are going to have to do more with less. Sad, because the needs are great, and the funding is challenging for a lot of not-for-profits.
Although total charitable giving is rising from the pits of the 2008 recession, it’s doing so at an agonizingly slow pace and has yet to reach pre-recession levels.
In fact, last year, corporate donations dropped by 3.1 percent, adjusted for inflation, which cut into the slight gains in personal giving. Many charities, as a result, have cut staff or put added pressure on remaining employees to raise funds. Some workers, and even donors, are feeling burned out. Many nonprofits also are increasingly relying on volunteers to fill the gap in resources.
In 2010 and 2011, U.S. charitable giving grew only by an inflation-adjusted average of 1.8 percent nationwide — making it the second-worst recovery following a recession in 40 years, according to a report by the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy.
If giving continued to increase at that rate, it would take 10 years to reach the amount donated in 2007.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on a new study from com.Score that shows that more than 13% of webpage visits this past August were made on a tablet or mobile phone. That means that one in eight page views now comes through mobile platforms.
Doesn’t seem like that much? Well, just consider that mobile viewing has more than doubled from just a year ago. That certainly squares with recent data from Pew Research that half of U.S. adults now connect to the Internet with a smartphone or a tablet and more than 60% of them access news on their smart devices at least weekly.
Nonprofits certainly need to respond to this trend by making their websites more mobile friendly. Some tips from that article include:
• simplifying your website so that it is easier to read on mobile devices and to take actions, such as donating.
• investing in a separate website just for mobile or in technology that automatically reformats your site depending on the device being used to access it.
• prioritizing mobile access of your main website before creating specialized apps.
Jakob Nielsen explores some of the options too, suggesting that mobile sites can’t be cut to the bone or users will be disappointed, but can’t include so much that usability is poor on the smaller phones and tablets.
About.com’s Guide to Web Design suggests “Don’t put your navigation first, even if that’s where it is on your main page. If you make the navigation too small it won’t be usable, and if it’s too large that will be all some mobile users see when they first download the page.”
The last time Central Park’s Great Lawn hosted a Saturday night concert, the year was 1981, and the total raised was $100,000.
A recent Saturday marked the first show since, and the results were 60,000 souls watch a lineup including the Foo Fighters, Neil Young, The Black Keys, Band of Horses and K’naan–and became the largest syndicated charity concert in online and broadcast television history, generating over $500 million in pledges to combat poverty around the world.
In fairness to Simon and Garfunkel, the Global Festival’s pledge total relies on individual philanthropists, governments and NGOs to keep their word and contribute aid. But it’s a staggering sum nonetheless, one that’s nearly enough, says Evans, to eradicate polio once and for all (that would be music to the ears of Neil Young, who suffered from the disease as a child).
“It’s so close,” says Evans. “It literally could be the legacy of this generation to see that polio is wiped off the face of this planet, and that’s what we’re committed to.”
The Global Festival, deliberately scheduled to coincide with the United Nations’ General Assembly, should boost efforts that halved the global poverty rate from 1981-2005, from 52% to 25%–and give a jolt to the international body’s Millennium Development Goals, one of which is to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
With the U.S. election nearing, some of America’s wealthiest argue that they would give more to charity if they paid lower taxes, as they surely would under proposals put forth by Mitt Romney and in the House-approved budget drafted by his running mate Paul Ryan.
Such an assertion is directly contradicted by scholarly studies. Studies indicate that when taxes go down, people give less generously. Lower taxes mean that what scholars call “the price of giving” goes up; the value of the tax deduction per donated dollar is less.
The notion that the wealthy will pay out in voluntary contributions what they don’t pay in mandatory taxes may seem an attractive proposition to some charities, but it just isn’t so.
While there may be more discretionary money in the pockets of millionaires, it tends to stay there. As a matter of fact, the wealthy give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do moderate- and low-income people.
The social psychologist Paul Piff, who studies the effects of income on personal behavior, told The Chronicle of Philanthropy last month that “the more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become and the less attuned to the needs of other people.” He has shown that wealth can make people “more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people.”
Much of this has been known since 1990 when Terry Odendahl published Charity Begins at Home; wealthy Americans tend to support the nonprofit institutions that they themselves use. That includes elite universities, museums, operas, and performing-arts groups as well as other cultural institutions and some hospitals and medical facilities. Few would consider these institutions to be on the frontline of charities dealing with today’s most pressing problems.
Times are tough and teachers need to be creative sometimes when stocking their classrooms for the year.
Meghan Howell, a second-year first-grade teacher turned to the Internet for help. Though a combination of social media and the website Donorschoose.org, she was able to raise the money she needed in two days. Donors Choose is a charity website where teachers can post their needs as projects in the hopes of finding donors.
DonorsChoose was created in 2000 in New York by social-studies teacher Charles Best. Since its launch, the charity has raised more than $120 million to fund almost 300,000 projects for 6 million students. Anyone can donate to any project on the website, and all donations can be made anonymously.
Nine months after Ma Chunhua’s baby was born, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Ma, a low-wage worker in Hubei province, said she grew desperate, knowing her family couldn’t afford the chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplant needed to save her baby. So she turned to China’s online masses, tweeting pictures from the hospital and posting their plight.
Chinese citizens are increasingly depending not on their government nor officially sanctioned nonprofits, but on Twitter-like microblogs called Weibo for donations.
The emergence of Weibo philanthropy has been spurred on by widespread suspicion and exasperation among Chinese with their government’s decades-long stranglehold over the social assistance and charity sector.
Current laws prevent the existence of any nonprofit unless it is partnered with a government-related entity. Even then, such groups cannot raise money — a right reserved for a small number of government-controlled charities.
And for the ruling Communist Party — in the midst of a once-in-a-decade transition of leaders — the trend towards Weibo fundraising suggests a troubling disconnect. The fact that increasing numbers of citizens would rather donate to random strangers online than to state-managed charities points to a growing distrust in government institutions. And donations to official charities has declined over the past two years.
“Weibo is putting great pressure on the government because it shows that if they don’t solve basic problems they are responsible for like food and health, the people will solve it without them,” said Deng Fei, a former investigative journalist.
A new study on the generosity of Americans confirms the suggestion that the least religious are also the stingiest about giving money to charity.
The study released by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that residents in states where religious participation is higher than the rest of the nation gave the greatest percentage of their discretionary income to charity.
Northeast residents, with lower religious participation, was the least generous to charities.
The study was based on Internal Revenue Service records of people who itemized deductions in 2008, the most recent year statistics were available. By focusing on the percentage given to charity from discretionary income — the money left over after necessities are paid for — the study aimed to remove variables such as the differing costs of living around the country. Churches are among the organizations counted as charities by the study.
A study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, based on Internal Revenue Service records, provides an unusually rich look at giving by geography and income level. The study uses the most recent data available and provides detail about the relative generosity of US states, cities, towns, and even ZIP codes based on the share of discretionary income their residents gave.
The Chronicle’s study examines taxpayers who earned $50,000 or more. They donated a median of 4.7 percent of their discretionary income. Altogether, they provided $135-billion to charity, nearly two-thirds of the $214-billion donated by all individuals in 2008, according to “Giving USA,” the benchmark of American giving.
Among other findings:
The rich aren’t the most generous. Low-income people give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities. People who make $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.
As for the 1 percent: Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities.