The “generosity pulse” in America – How is the patient in 2010?
Giving USA has released its Report for philanthropy in 2009. As always, this work which is compiled by the Center on Philanthropy, provides terrific information about the “generosity pulse” of America. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am Chair-elect of the Board of Visitors for the Center. But the work done by the Center on so many fronts – the Giving USA Report just one of them- is outstanding and so helpful to so many in our field.
There is some debate about the perspective of this report and what some other scholars say. Some ask if Giving USA paints an overly rosy picture of giving with a decrease of only 3.2% in 2009. Gifts in some categories dropped by much more – nearly 18% to higher education and gifts to the organizations that raise the most money dropped by 10%- are two examples.
But there are other factors to consider. What some would call mega gifts – those in the $100 million range- often go to private foundations which do not typically distribute funds immediately. And most high net worth donors continued their support. Most tellingly – at least to me- is the fact that much of what we may be seeing in an over-all drop relates to gifting at the highest end. Gifts of more than $1.0 totaled $4.4 billion- which was a drop of nearly 64% from 2008. Donations of less than $5000 fell by a median of 4.8% (according to an analysis by Target Analytics.)
This suggests to me something very healthy. The broad and deep impulse to help – across a nationwide population seems strong. Is that impulse impacted by this very tough economy? Yes. Is it likely to continue to be impacted for awhile? Yes. But gifting at that level is posting a lower decrease than the gifts at higher end levels.
Philanthropy is by and for everyone –at all levels of capacity to give. This is an “and” not an “or.” But it seems to me we ought to keep our eye on the base from which so much is expected and which – year in and year out- shows that generosity of spirit – the pulse – remains strong and vibrant.
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