Stock Market Volatility Has Fundraisers Worried

After an almost decade-long bull market and years of strong economic growth, nonprofit fundraisers are beginning to worry about the impact a slowing economy will have on donations in 2001, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Worried about the falling value of their stock portfolios, some investors say they are rethinking the size and number of their charitable gifts. Robert T. Cook and his wife Ana, for example, felt they were in a position to double their charitable gifts in 1999 due to gains in the stock market. But by late last year they had decided to delay their plans to donate $200,000 to a charitable trust. Cook told the Times that "now much of that wealth has vaporized and we no longer feel we have excess wealth."

But while charitable organizations like the California Community Foundation are beginning to see their donations dip from the highs of 1999, falling stock prices may not be wholly responsible for the decline. As CCF spokesperson Catherine Stringer notes, "Election years are always off-years. The fluctuation in the stock market has had some effect [on donations], but not as enormous as you'd think."

Shrinking asset values and the prospect of a recession may have made donors more cautious about major gifts, but charities with broad public name recognition and support report continuing success on the fundraising front. Joann Schellenbach, a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, notes that charities that depend on a large number of small donations — rather than major gifts from wealthy individuals or corporations — actually fare well when the economy is in a down cycle.

"Charities Bracing for Donation Downturn as Market Fluctuates" Los Angeles Times 01/22/2000.