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Americans Still Giving, Despite Economic Meltdown

Philanthropy News Digest

November 24, 2008


As more Americans turn to charity for assistance amid a worsening economic situation, operators of foodbanks and other basic-needs providers are relying on the surprisingly resilient generosity of their neighbors, the Associated Press reports.

According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, charitable giving in the United States tends to be recession-proof. Indeed, donations to U.S. charities have increased during thirty-nine of the past forty years, and a change in the tax laws — not the stock market crash — can be blamed for the single decline, in 1987, said Melissa Brown, associate director of research for the center. Somewhere between 69 percent and 72 percent of people give routinely, added Brown.

Although New York City charities, whose fates are tied more directly to the stock market, have been hit hard this year, the national picture is more positive. Indeed, a recent World Vision survey found that 2008 could actually be a better-than-usual Christmas for the nation's charitable organizations, with about half of adults saying that they are more likely to give a donation to charity as a gift rather than more traditional presents.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, Boeing employees tripled their cash donations this year to Northwest Harvest, operator of Washington's largest foodbank, which also has received calls from companies saying they have decided to skip their holiday parties and buy food for the hungry instead. Elsewhere, the United Way of King County expects to reach its fundraising goal of $110 million by year's end.

"At a time when people have things and they know that other people don't, Americans' generosity wins out," said Justin Greeves, senior vice president of Harris Interactive, which polls Americans about their charitable giving. "If it makes them feel good and they feel like it's making a difference, they'll give money."

“Americans Still Giving, Despite Economic Meltdown.” Associated Press 11/21/08.

Reprinted with Permission of the Foundation Center.

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