Friday, October 17, 2008

Charitable and political giving

I published this paragraph as a bit of an afterthought on Thursday's post. Thought I'd pull it out and let it stand on its own -

Here's another thought I've been noodling on for a while. I've given more money to political campaigns this year than I ever have before. Judging by the size of the funds raised through primaries and general elections, I'm not alone. Lots more people have been giving money to candidates (and propositions, initiatives, etc) than ever before. What will be the impact of all this political giving on people's budgets for year-end giving? I don't know the answer to this question and we may not know until well after the election and after Giving Season. My hunch is that, as our wallets have grown thinner in recent months and our anxiety has increased, the "average" person's budget for year-end giving is going to move in the same direction as their budget for holiday shopping - down. Consumer companies and investors are planning on lower spending. Nonprofits are girding for it. Some research says this isn't the case. But that research was done in July 2008, back when folks had jobs, some had 401K plans, investment banks still existed, and banks themselves were independent. Now more than ever we will be making decisions about where and how to allocate our dollars and what lever - charitable, political, investment - will make the change we seek.


Anonymous said...

Lucy, I agree completely. I think the economy, stock market and exhaustion (literal and financial) from political giving have the potential to create the "perfect storm" for charitable organizations. We're thinking about this here at the Arcus Foundation and talking about getting some real data from our grantees after the end year fundraising figures are in to assess the impact and the extent to which we need to come forward with emergency, general op funds. I'd hate to see our people hampered just at the time when a new federal administration could make a lot of things possible if the right advocacy strategies were able to be executed.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Thanks Cindy - I could not agree more. One of the challenges we all face in philanthropy in down times is not backsliding - here's how I have been thinking about this. Imagine you are a donor supporting after-school tutoring programs. Money gets tight. You pull back your giving. Public funds recede. Other donors pull back. The tutoring program cuts spots for kids. The very kids who had been making progress through the tutoring program can no longer get that help. They lose ground academically. In essence, the investments made in that program and in those kids during good times are lost.

Your point about advocacy organizations and infrastructure - given this particular presidential election - is right on. If the support that has built those organizations through the last 8 years erodes now, there will not be the platform/infrastructure from which to move forward come January 20.

Giving in down times - it is a tough set of choices.

Thanks for your comment. I'd love to learn what you learn from your grantees about their end-of-year fundraising.

Anonymous said...

I think you make a good point about political giving, and I hadn't heard it before. I've also given way more money than ever to political candidate, and that had already factored into the amount I decided upon when I was asked for support by an organization with which I've been familiar for a long time but had never personally supported. will be interesting to see what that and the meltdown combined will mean when we sit down to think through the rest of our donations this year.