Posts tagged ‘recession’

June 16, 2015

Strong American Philanthropy at a Record High!

Americans donated an estimated $358.38 billion in 2014, surpassing the peak last seen before the Great Recession, according to the 60th anniversary edition of Giving USA, released today. That overall total slightly exceeds the benchmark year of 2007, when giving hit an estimated inflation-adjusted total of $355.17 billion. However, Individual giving has yet to recover fully.

The 2014 philanthropy total increased by 5.4 percent, when inflation adjusted, over the revised estimate of $339.94 billion that Americans donated in 2013. Giving has grown for each of the previous five years. The growth in 2014 significantly outpaces the average growth rate of 3.4 percent (inflation adjusted) during the past five-year period.

All four sources of contributions that comprise total giving increased in 2014:

  • Individuals (72 percent of the total, 4 percent inflation-adjusted increase)
  • Corporations (5 percent of the total, 11.9 percent inflation-adjusted increase)
  • Foundations (15 percent of the total, 8.2 percent inflation-adjusted increase)
  • Bequests (8 percent of the total, 13.6 inflation-adjusted increase)

Giving USA 8.5 x 11 Infographic“The 60 year high for total giving is a great story about resilience and perseverance,” says W. Keith Curtis, Chairman of the Giving USA Foundation and President of The Curtis Group. “It’s also interesting to consider that growth was across the board, even though criteria used to make decisions about giving differ for each source.”

When combining the Individual and Bequest numbers, we see that individuals contributed 80 percent of all dollars given to charity in 2014. If we include family foundation giving, individual philanthropy accounted for 87 percent of all dollars given in 2014, according to Patrick Rooney, PhD, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Large Individual gifts of $200 million or more accounted for a significant portion of the overall growth in Individual giving while the actual number of gifts over $1 million has decreased.

“We saw several very large gifts greater than $200 million — a few were greater than $500 million and one was nearly $2 billion — in 2014,” says Rooney. “The majority of these mega-gifts were given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs.”

Looking at the nine gift recipient categories, all but one saw an increase in giving:

January 9, 2015

Are You Ready for the Coming Storm?

A storm is coming. It will affect the entire US economy. It will likely affect the global economy.

The nonprofit sector will not escape the impact. You need to prepare now.

Koyasan Umbrellas 3 by Andrea Williams via FlickrAs 2014 began to wind down, the US National Debt surpassed the $18 trillion mark! That’s over $154,000 of Federal government debt per taxpayer or more than $56,000 per citizen. During the six years of the Obama Administration, the US National Debt increased by nearly $7 trillion, representing 67 percent growth. And it’s still growing.

As if that’s not bad enough, the US Unfunded Liabilities total more than $92.5 trillion dollars, or more than $789,000 per taxpayer! It, too, continues to grow.

President Barack Obama, former-President George W. Bush, and the US Congress are all responsible for the rapid growth in the US National Debt since 2009 as well as the growth in the Unfunded Liabilities. So, I’m not going to engage in specific finger pointing, policy debates, or politics.

Instead, I want to focus on what this means for the charity sector looking forward.

The rapid growth of national debt is not sustainable. We should no longer ignore it. Here are some of the reasons why:

• While our enormous national debt is not significantly affecting the nonprofit sector at the moment, the day is coming when it will. Prudent organizations will prepare for the storm before it hits.

• At some point, failure to address the massive debt issue will lead to a downgrade in America’s credit rating. Think it can’t happen? It already has. In 2011, Standard and Poor’s cut the US credit rating to AA+ because the government “fell short” of taming the nation’s debt. In 2012, Egan-Jones cut America’s credit rating to AA for the same reason. While these downgrades have had a mostly symbolic effect, they foreshadow what is likely to happen unless the government brings the national debt under control.

• Eventually, future credit rating downgrades will make it more expensive for the government to borrow money. Interest rates will rise. That will take more money out of the economy.

• In addition to becoming increasingly costly to borrow, lending sources will be harder to find. Some of those lenders might also use the lender-debtor relationship to force US policy changes. We’ve already seen this with the China relationship. By the way, China, no longer the US, is the world’s largest economy in “real” terms of goods and services produced.

• To deal with the debt, the federal government has four possible courses of action (or some combination of these): 1) pay more to borrow more which will add to the debt and take more money out of the economy, 2) print more money which would be inflationary, 3) cut spending which would likely mean less money for the social safety net and nonprofit organizations, and 4) raise taxes which will reduce individual disposable income. So, even if the government does address the debt situation, it could have a short-term negative impact on the nonprofit sector before it has a positive effect.

• A massive, growing national debt will make it more difficult for the US economy to experience strong growth in Gross Domestic Product. Philanthropy correlates closely with GDP; it’s been about two percent of GDP for decades. If the economy doesn’t grow rapidly, philanthropy is not likely to do so. If the economy truly falters, we might even see a drop in year-to-year philanthropy as we did during the Great Recession.

We’re already beginning to see some of the effects I’ve described above. If nothing is done to tame the national debt, these effects will be magnified and could eventually become catastrophic.

There are some things that nonprofits can do to prepare:

February 28, 2014

Warning: US Volunteerism at a Decade Low!

The rate of volunteerism in America fell to the lowest level in a decade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics report Volunteering in the United States — 2013.  This appears part of a downward trend.

Nonprofit organizations should find this trend alarming for a number of reasons, including:

Volunteers provide an essential labor pool. Approximately 62.6 million (25.4 percent) Americans volunteered at least once between September 2012 and September 2013.

The median volunteer spent 50 hours on volunteer activities during the study period. These significant volunteer hours mean that volunteers are a valuable part of the nonprofit labor force. Declining volunteerism rates mean charities will either have to limit services, discontinue certain activities, or pay for employees to perform the tasks formerly handled by volunteers.

Volunteers serve as ambassadors. Individuals who volunteer usually act as ambassadors for the organization. They obviously have a high-degree of interest in the organization, which is why they volunteer with it.

Through volunteer experiences, provided they are good ones, the volunteers will become more engaged with the organization and more passionate about its work. They will speak of the organization with family and friends. When they do, it will be in a positive, passionate tone. This word-of-mouth promotion will help your organization to attract additional volunteer and donor support.

Volunteers are more likely to donate. The more engaged an individual is with his community, the more likely he is to volunteer and contribute money to nonprofit organizations. The more points of connection there are between an individual and a particular nonprofit organization, the more likely that individual is to give, give often, and give generously to that organization, as I point out in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

Volunteerism is an important point of connection. This phenomenon is explained, in part, by the Social Capital Theory popularized by Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone.

Volunteers are more likely to make planned gifts. Consider what researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP reports in his book, American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012):

Among those with [estate] planning documents, those who both volunteer and give ($500+) are dramatically more likely to plan a charitable estate gift than those who only volunteer or only give ($500+). Those who only volunteer, plan charitable estate gifts at approximately the same rate as those who only give.”

Graph from American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012) by Russell James.

Graph from American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012) by Russell James.

Furthermore, those who only volunteer or only donate ($500+) are more than twice as likely to make a legacy gift than those who do neither.

For a free electronic copy of James’ book, subscribe to this blog site in the right-hand column. You’ll receive an email confirmation of your subscription that will contain a link to the book.

Clearly, the steady decline in volunteerism represents a serious problem for the nonprofit sector.

So, why is volunteerism on the decline? Unfortunately, the reasons for the decline are unclear. However, the report contains some clues.

March 25, 2013

Special Report: PPPGP Recognizes Michael J. Rosen

The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia has recognized Michael J. Rosen, CFRE for his board service. Allen F. Thomas, JD, CFRE, CAP, President of PPPGP, presented Rosen with a certificate during PPPGP’s March 22, 2013 luncheon program.

Rosen recognized by PPPGP

Michael Rosen (left) receives recognition certificate from Allen Thomas.

Rosen, the President of ML Innovations, served on the PPPGP board from 2007 through 2012. During that time, he held a variety of positions including Chair of the Programming Committee, Vice President, President, and Immediate Past President.

During his tenure, PPPGP achieved a great deal despite the challenging economic situation. PPPGP’s annual conference saw a 33 percent increase in attendance. The number of members set a new record high. The budget was balanced and the cash reserve was enhanced while PPPGP held the line on costs to its members. Additional programs were initiated including roundtable meetings and a nationally recognized two-day fundamentals of planned giving workshop. 

PPPGP also added networking opportunities and a mentoring program. The organization also enhanced its website to include a jobs board and a regular ethics column. PPPGP also created the Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist of the Year. In addition, the organization changed its name from the Planned Giving Council of Greater Philadelphia to the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia to be more inclusive and more representative of the philanthropic planning process.

January 25, 2013

To Sue or Not to Sue Over Unpaid Pledges?

Sometimes, nonprofit organizations sue philanthropists over unpaid pledges. This was recently the case with the Kansas City Art Institute. When a charity pursues this type of legal action, it sends shockwaves throughout the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

I do believe there are times when a nonprofit can and should sue a donor. However, this should only be done as an absolute last resort. The three instances when a lawsuit might be acceptable are:

1. The donor dies with an outstanding pledge and an heir challenges the will. In that case, the nonprofit might need to sue the estate to establish its claim and collect.

2. The nonprofit incurs real expense based on the donor’s commitment. For example, based on a pledge agreement, the nonprofit breaks-ground on a new building. The nonprofit might need to sue simply to survive.

3. The donor is about to or has entered bankruptcy. Suing the donor would be a way for the nonprofit to establish its claim. (By the way, I suspect that this fear might be what may have triggered the Art Institute case.)

In any case, suing a donor should only be done after careful consideration and only when all other options have been exhausted.

To sue or not sue over unpaid pledges? That is the question. The answer, offered by Brian M. Sagrestano, JD, CFRE and Robert E. Wahlers, MS, CFRE, is: Avoid the problem in the first place!

Philanthropic Planning Companion coverBrian and Robert are friends of mine. They are both seasoned, wise development professionals who have served on the national board of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. I’m pleased that they have offered to share some of their wisdom below as they introduce us to the concept of “concierge stewardship.”

Brian and Robert both generously provided insights and material for my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, for which I won the AFP-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy.

Now, Brian and Robert have written their own book, Philanthropic Planning Companion: The Fundraisers’ and Professional Advisors’ Guide to Charitable Gift Planning, and I’m honored to have been included in their comprehensive volume. The book is part of the AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series.

The official description of the book notes, “For fundraisers and professional advisors alike, The Philanthropic Planning Companion is the one-stop resource you’ll keep by your side to help your donors/clients meet their charitable and personal planning objectives.”

So, do you want to avoid a nightmare at your organization? If so, read on:

 

The Kansas City Art Institute recently sued Larry and Kristina Dodge for failure to pay $4 million on a $5 million pledge that was to be used to pay for construction of a new building, according to The Kansas City Star.

When the Dodges attempted to defend themselves (rather than hire an attorney they indicated that they could not afford), they made procedural errors and a default judgment was entered against them for the full $4 million due on the pledge. According to The Star, the Dodges made three payments on their pledge before their financial situation was impacted by the Great Recession, limiting their ability to fulfill the commitment.

In the article, Larry Dodge is quoted, indicating that he and his wife were in negotiation with the Institute to come up with a payment plan when it unexpectedly filed suit to collect on the pledge.

Regardless of the outcome, the reputations of both the Dodges and the Institute are forever harmed. Prospective donors will think twice before making a major commitment to a charity that would sue them to collect on a pledge. Meantime, the Dodges reputation, despite their many years of generous philanthropy, will be forever tarnished.

We cannot judge the merits of the Art Institute’s action or the ability of the Dodges to pay on their pledge, as we are not privy to all of the facts of the case. However, it raises a much larger issue about charities and pledges.

January 4, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Disaster Averted, but Trouble Looms

We ended 2012 by surviving the so-called Mayan Doomsday. We began 2013 by driving off the so-called Fiscal Cliff before averting possible economic disaster. Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which put the nation back on safe ground, for the moment.

Previously, I looked at the Act and provided information about what key elements mean for the nonprofit sector. Now, let’s look at:

What’s next?Road Sign by Madjag via Flickr

The Charitable Giving Coalition, chaired by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, as well as the AFP Political Action Committee, won a great victory when Congress preserved the charitable giving tax deduction and reinstated the IRA Charitable Rollover for 2012 and 2013. Everyone who was involved in visiting members of Congress, writing them, or calling them to advocate for the nonprofit sector certainly has a right to take pride in what the sector has accomplished.

However, before we get too carried away congratulating ourselves, let’s remember that the nonprofit sector continues to face danger.

The return of Pease Amendment provisions will make charitable giving a bit more expensive for wealthy donors. Higher taxes will also mean that donors will have less money with which to give. As a result, organizations may face some challenges. But, these are challenges that we have faced before. We’ll just have to work a bit more creatively.

Unfortunately, there are other looming dangers.

Thelma & LouiseThe Fiscal Cliff legislation, which was originally supposed to decrease the deficit, will actually increase the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In other words, we’re still headed full-speed ahead to economic collapse which would be a disaster for the nonprofit sector and society in general.

Charitable giving has historically correlated to about two percent of Gross Domestic Product. If GDP growth continues at a slow pace, philanthropy is also likely to grow only modestly. If runaway deficit spending leads to another recession, we can expect a likely decline in overall philanthropy.

All Congress has done is buy a bit of time.

Republicans have signaled that they will address the issue of spending cuts within the next two months. In two months, Congress will have to vote on whether to increase the nation’s debt ceiling. President Obama has already said that any spending cuts will require an increase in tax revenue in order to garner Democrat support.

Having achieved a tax rate increase, The White House now seeks to raise additional revenue in other ways. For example, the Administration may want to apply the top tax rates to those earning less than the current threshold of $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples. Also, the Administration is likely to seek limitations on deductions, particularly for the “wealthy.” The Administration has previously expressed support for both revenue generating options. Now, it’s likely those proposals will resurface during spending-cut negotiations.

So, while the charitable deduction appears to be safe for the moment, that safety may only last for two months.

Think I’m being alarmist? Let me provide some perspective from the US Debt Clock:

In 2000 the deficit was $5.8 trillion, which was $56,150 per taxpayer.

In 2008 the deficit was $9.2 trillion, which was $85,893 per taxpayer.

In 2012 the deficit was $16.4 trillion, which was $145,620 for every taxpayer.

Now, the Fiscal Cliff deal will add another $4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years!

At some point, the American economy will either collapse, going the way of Greece, or the government will get its act together and control spending. I’ve heard a lot of talk during the debate over the Fiscal Cliff about the need to return to Clinton Era tax rates. Sadly, there was little talk of returning to Clinton Era spending levels, even as a percentage of GDP which would still allow for spending increases.

The situation must be dealt with for the good of the nation. Unfortunately, this may require some pain for the nonprofit sector in the form of a reduced charitable giving tax deduction and reduced direct grants to and contracts with nonprofit organizations.

On the floor of the House of Representatives, during debate over the Fiscal Cliff legislation, Democrats have already begun to argue for additional revenues, echoing statements this week from The White House. In other words, the nonprofit sector has made it out of the first round of debates. But, the second round is quickly approaching.

Challenging times remain immediately ahead.

January 3, 2013

Special Report: Everything Each NPO Must Know about Fiscal Cliff Legislation

A dysfunctional White House and Congress officially took the United States over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” at the close of December 31. Fortunately, a deal was reached late on New Year’s Day, hopefully averting what economists say would have been an almost certain return to deep recession.

Since the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed, there’s already been a great deal of confusion and misinformation about what the Act means to the nonprofit sector. 

Thankfully, Brian M. Sagrestano, JD, CFRE, a consultant and co-author of Philanthropic Planning Companion: The Fundraiser’s and Professional Advisors’ Guide to Charitable Gift Planning, has written a careful and thorough analysis of the 157-page Act with particular attention to: income taxes, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, gift and estate taxes, the IRA Charitable Rollover, and other provisions. He also predicts the impact the Act will have on philanthropy and provides some important tips for all nonprofit organizations.

October 5, 2012

Impact of Nonprofit Sector: More than Most People Think

Do you know the impact of your nonprofit organization?

Chances are, I probably got you thinking about the people your organization benefits, its core mission.

The public recognizes that reputable nonprofit organizations benefit the people they serve. However, people tend not to think beyond that impact. Even among nonprofit professionals, maybe even you, the focus tends to be on those served directly.

However, nonprofit organizations have a far broader impact. Yes, hospitals heal patients; universities educate students; symphony orchestras entertain audiences; museums expand our minds; disease research foundations seek cures. But, beyond their core missions, nonprofit organizations do much more for society.

Despite being tax exempt, nonprofit organizations generate tax revenue. They employ people, and those people pay income taxes and sales taxes. They help support local businesses such as furniture retailers, office supply stores, restaurants, hotels, and many others. Those businesses, in turn, pay taxes and employ staff.

Simply put, nonprofit organizations have a profound economic ripple effect. Their benefit to society goes far beyond those they serve.

Recently, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance sought to quantify the economic impact of the arts and cultural nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area. The result of GPCA’s effort is the report The Arts, Culture and Economic Prosperity in Greater Philadelphia. 

Generating 44,000 full-time equivalent jobs, Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector has a profound $3.3 billion impact on the region’s economy including $1 billion to local residents in the form of paychecks and household income and $169 million in tax revenues for state and local governments, according to the research report.

The report also compares Philadelphia against 181 other cities, regions and communities to show how Philadelphia and its cultural community stack up against the rest of the country. Among participating regions, Southeastern Pennsylvania’s cultural sector ranks first in job creation, accounting for 11 jobs per thousand residents, nearly double the national average.

GPCA says that key findings in the report are:

August 3, 2012

New Economic Data Suggest Continued Fundraising Challenges. What Can You Do?

Based on the latest economic data, nonprofit organizations in the USA should not expect significant growth in philanthropy through at least 2013. Fortunately, there are at least 10 things you can do to help your nonprofit weather the storm.

Historically, philanthropy in the USA has been approximately two percent of Gross Domestic Product. While this is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship, the correlation is consistent. Therefore, with slow economic growth, we will likely see slow philanthropic growth.

In 2011, the US experienced an annual GDP growth rate of 1.8 percent. That same year, overall giving rose by 4.0 percent in current dollars or 0.9 percent in inflation adjusted dollars, according to Giving USA 2012.

In the first quarter of 2012, the US economy grew at a rate of 2.0 percent. In the second quarter of 2012, US economic growth slowed to just 1.5 percent. Most economists agree that a growth rate of 2.0 percent or less is insufficient to lower the unemployment rate, now at 8.2 percent. Looking ahead to 2013, the Federal Reserve forecasts a growth rate of 2.5 percent, still modest.

For the nonprofit sector, the GDP numbers mean the sector can expect philanthropy to grow in 2012 at a similar rate to 2011. Growth in 2013 will likely not be much better.

Despite my lack luster predictions for the nonprofit sector, I do believe there are at least 10 things that individual organizations can do to stimulate increased giving. If you implement just some of these ideas, your organization will likely achieve above average fundraising results:

1. Hug your donors. Ok, maybe not literally. But, you do need to let your donors know you love and appreciate them, now more than ever. Do you quickly acknowledge gifts? You should do so within 48 hours. Do you effectively thank donors? You should do so in at least seven different ways. Your thank you letters should be reviewed to ensure they are heartfelt, meaningful, and effective. Have board members call donors to thank them.

2. Tell donors about the impact of their gift. Donors want to know that their giving is making a difference. If their giving isn’t making a difference or they aren’t sure, they’re more likely to give elsewhere. So, report to your donors. Tell them what their giving is achieving and that their support is being used efficiently.

3. Start a new recognition program. One small nonprofit organization I know has started a new, special corporate giving club. CEOs of the corporate members are placed on an advisory board, receive special recognition, and are provided with networking opportunities. This new recognition program has already generated over $50,000 and is expected to generate far more. While enhancing existing recognition efforts is beneficial, starting a new recognition program can yield significant results.

June 22, 2012

Giving USA 2012 Released, Donations Up Slightly

Total philanthropic giving in 2011 was $298.42 billion, up from a revised estimate of $286.91 billion for 2010.

That’s the finding presented in Giving USA 2012, the report just released by The Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.

While the uptick of 4.0 percent in giving in current dollars is positive news, it represents an increase of just 0.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. At this rate of growth, it will take more than a decade for giving to return to its pre-recession 2007 level, according to Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center on Philanthropy. Rooney was in Philadelphia to present the major findings of the report. Rooney stated:

The estimates for giving in 2011 are encouraging, but they demonstrate that charities still face ongoing challenges. In the past two years, charitable giving has experienced its second slowest recovery following any recession since 1971.”

Giving in 2012 and 2013 is likely to experience the same slow growth as we saw in 2011. On the same day that Rooney was in Philadelphia, the U.S. Federal Reserve issued its multi-year forecast of change in Gross Domestic Product. The Fed projects GDP will continue to grow at a modest rate. For 2012, the projected GDP growth rate is 2.2 percent. For 2013, the Fed projects GDP growth of 2.5 percent. This is important news for all Americans, particularly those in the nonprofit sector.

In 2011, giving was 2 percent of GDP. Since giving has been tracked, philanthropy has always been about 2 percent of GDP. If this correlation rate continues, the nonprofit sector can expect continued slow growth in philanthropy in 2012 and 2013 as GDP is projected to grow only modestly.

Once again, the majority of philanthropic dollars came from Individuals, who accounted for 73 percent of total giving, the same percentage as the prior year. If Bequest and Family Foundation giving is included, the percentage would be 88 percent.

Individual giving as a percentage of disposable personal income remained at 1.9 percent in 2011, the same as in 2009 and 2010; this is far below the high of 2.4 percent achieved in 2005.

The report estimates estate giving at $24.41 billion in 2011, a 12.2 percent increase over 2010 (8.8 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars). Bequest giving represented 8 percent of total giving. Two-thirds of Americans with a will have included a charitable bequest provision, according to Robert I. Evans, Founder and Managing Director of EHL Consulting Group, who co-presented with Rooney. Fluctuations in bequest giving in recent years are primarily due to the major changes in real estate and stock portfolio values. Rooney also observed that the 300 wealthiest deceased individuals determine whether bequest giving goes up or down.

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