January 22, 2020
Nonprofit Donations Seem to Be Recovering from the Recession

September 11, 2012 — While many nonprofits nationally are still recovering from the Great Recession and say they are having difficulty raising fund from affluent donors, a number of the largest charitable institutions in the Boston area say their donations have recovered to pre-recession levels.

Recently released data from the Internal Revenue Service shows that people of every income level wrote off $158-billion in charitable donations in 2009 and $172-billion in 2008, according to a report in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Specifically:
  • Giving by people earning $200,000 a year or more fell by $31 billion from 2007 to 2009.
  • Those who earned under $100,000 dropped their contributions by $4 billion.
”As the nation is about to mark the fourth year since the collapse of the financial markets, many fundraisers had expected gifts from the wealthy to have recovered by now, especially given the gains in the stock market that have helped many affluent people rebuild their net worth,” the publication noted.

“But that isn’t happening, some experts say, because donors feel so shaky about the economy and uncertain whether Congress will raise tax rates or limit charitable deductions.”

However, a report in this week’s Boston Business Journal found that Boston’s largest charitable institutions “have managed to claw their way back to their prerecession donation levels, thanks partly to steady commitments from corporations.”

According to the BBJ, total donations to Boston area nonprofits bottomed out in 2009 and 2010 before they stabilized and started a slow recovery.

“We’re back on track, despite a continuing sluggish economy,” the paper quoted Michael Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

The United Way reportedly intends to raise about $48 million in donations this year, about the same it did in 2008.

Similarly, The Boston Foundation, the second largest grantmaking foundation in Massachusetts, expects to raise $75 million this year through fundraising, the BBJ reported, about the same it raised before the recession.

Since there is no readily available single source of information on donations to Massachusetts nonprofits as a whole, it is difficult to assess how the sector is faring.

In addition, since many donors don’t itemize contributions on their tax returns, the recession’s effect on total charitable giving may never be fully known, The Chronicle noted.

Total charitable contributions from American individuals, bequests, corporations, and foundations increased by four percent last year, according to Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Total giving in 2011 was estimated to be $298.42 billion, up from $286.91 billion for 2010, according to Giving USA.

In 2009, total charitable giving in the United States was approximately $304 billion, according to Giving USA, down four percent from 2008.

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