Donations to Largest Charities Still Below Pre-Recession Levels

Donations to Largest Charities Still Below Pre-Recession Levels

Many of the nation's largest charitable organizations expect their fundraising results to improve this year, although not to pre-recession levels, a new survey from the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds.

According to the annual Philanthropy 400 survey (subscription required), donations to the largest U.S. nonprofits increased 3.5 percent in 2010, to $70.3 billion. But the gains were concentrated among disaster relief and international aid organizations that receive donations of medicine, food, and other goods in the wake of a disaster. They include the American Red Cross, which attributed the increase in its fundraising results to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the Salvation Army, which said the growth in its income was the result of a successful publicity campaign that highlighted its work serving the poor. Community foundations and other public charities that administer donor-advised funds also reported gains in donations, including the Schwab Charitable Fund, which raised $926.4 million in 2010 and climbed to seventh place on the Chronicle's list, up from twenty-two the year before.

Organizations that saw a decline in donations included the Catholic Medical Mission Board, which raised $117 million in 2010, down 37 percent from 2009; the Environmental Defense Fund, which raised $50 million, down 60 percent; and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which raised $47 million, down 42 percent, according to Crain's New York. According to a Lincoln Center spokeswoman, the arts and culture mecca on Manhattan's Upper West Side raised less because it is in the final stages of a $1.2 billion capital campaign.

While the profits of most Fortune 500 companies have rebounded from the depths of the economic downturn, however, many nonprofits are still experiencing declines in their fundraising income. "It's a pretty grim situation," Stacy Palmer, the Chronicle's editor, told Crain's. "This has now been quite a long period where charities have been asked to meet higher demand with a lot less money. And the economy is continuing to show signs of struggle."

Holly Hall. "America's Top Fund-Raising Groups Face Big Struggles." Chronicle of Philanthropy 10/16/2011. Miriam Kreinin Souccar. "Fundraising Slump Continued in 2010." Crain's New York Business 10/17/2011.