Giving trends...on the other hand

I'm not the only one wondering about a down year for charitable giving - this article from Slate predicts a "Charity crisis" - ands builds the case off the same informal predictor of giving trends that I use - the Robin Hood Fund's annual fundraisingpalooza.

Daniel Gross's article has some useful insights:

  • Drops in philanthropic giving and recessions have a long history together;
  • Charitable giving is a "lagging indicator" of economic well-being (bills get paid first);
  • "Swanky" giving and "Salvation Army" giving rise and fall in similar waves
So if foreclosure rates, gas prices, food costs, "disaster fatigue," and airplane baggage fees haven't already convinced you that 08 (and '09, if the indicators really lag) may not be boom years for giving that we've seen in the past then the Slate article might.

On the other hand (and there is always another hand), unofficial peeks at online giving sites GlobalGiving (on track so far in 2008 to double 2007 giving) and Kiva show that the giving may be moving in other ways, on other sites, in other trend directions.

Over at SocialActions Peter Deitz has done some data compiling on online sites. I continue to think that these sites - and the industry as a whole - need to be RSS feeding, mashingup, or otherwise aggregating and compiling their data in a (somewhat) real-time way so we can truly begin to see "the other hand" of philanthropic trends.


Gena said...

Hi Lucy,
2 years ago around Xmas time there was a series of articles in the Globe and Mail, NY Times and smaller local newspapers about donor fatigue and how it was going to impact the charitable sector. That didn't happen (in fact, most organizations reported increased giving and some even recorded banner giving - see AFP study on annual giving trends from 2006). I wonder if the media is the one that is pushing the idea of lower giving and if that is what will drive charitiable dollars down (similar to how suicide rates increases when there are reports in the news about a suicide).

What I think we should be more concerned about is just how little in general the average American and Canadian tax payer gives to charity period (in the States 1.6% of annual income and in Canada 0.75% of annual income). We spend more money (almost twice as much) on going to the movies and concerts as we do on ensuring that our social service sector is taken care of.

All the best,


Peter Deitz said...

Hi Lucy, Thanks for linking to my article on TechSoup about group fundraising trends. It's definitely time for me to update those figures. Your post is reminding me that I should hit up the social action platforms for fresh statistics on what's happening on their sites. On a separate note, I'll be spending the summer months building out the first comprehensive mashup of social action platforms. I The challenge of integrating these sites is not a technical one but rather one of organizational culture. The individual platforms are sometimes reluctant to open their systems for integration. 'll definitely keep you updated on how the Social Actions project develops. Thanks for your support.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Interesting possibility - does media coverage influence giving - positively or negatively? There has been lots of 'celebrity philanthropy' (Oprah, Bono, Angelina Jolie) coverage and coverage of that coverage...does that induce more generosity? Do predictions of declines influence giving fatigue?

Anyone know?

Lucy Bernholz said...


Please keep updated with your mashup. And you raise a critical issue for all of us to consider - if technical issues can be addressed and data can be mashed, how/what do we do to address the organizational issues Peter points to? Technology and XML and tagging typologies won't help with the willingness to collude (as I like to call it - convinced as I am that philanthropy is one industry (the only industry?) where collusion should be encouraged?


Peter Deitz said...

Hi Lucy, The nice thing about RSS, tagging, and mashups is that it sometimes permits the appearance of collaboration even when the intent is lacking. Personally, I wouldn't use the word 'collusion' to describe what we're aiming for in philanthropy, but I have a feeling we're on the same wavelength here. Let's call it openness and substantive partnership.