US charitable giving overall suffers biggest drop in 50 years but picture mixed

Charitable giving in the US fell by the largest percentage in five decades last year, according to a new study by the Giving USA Foundation. Individuals and institutions made gifts and pledges of $307.65 billion, a decrease of 5.7 per cent on an inflation-adjusted basis over the $314 billion given in 2007, according to the foundation’s research.

Some experts, however, said they were surprised the drop was not even bigger, given that endowments fell by as much as 40 per cent, with similar stock market declines and corporate losses. The drop seems to have been mostly felt in the last part of the year as the economic crisis and the steep decline in stock markets took hold. Charitable giving remained strong, however, with last year’s giving outstripping all previous years on record except 2007, but the outlook remains uncertain. About two-thirds of public charities saw donations decrease in 2008, the report said, including organizations working to meet basic needs, like food banks and homeless shelters, which are seeing a big increase in demand for their services. ‘We’re definitely anticipating another down year,’ said one third sector fundraiser.

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