Thursday, November 13, 2008

What will you do?

Beth Kanter has a great post about MatchDay, The Columbus Foundation's great use of social media to inspire giving. Beth also asks the key question, (and I paraphrase) "Ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for community."

She notes several examples of individuals digging deeper to give more this giving season. I'm all for it. I hope it happens. I'm doing my best, are you?

But what I want to happen and what I hear is happening are two different things. Since this post and this coverage in the NY Times I've been veritably deluged with emails, tweets, phone calls and hallway conversations with folks who say "my giving is down."

Yesterday, in an all day meeting with three dozen public foundation representatives, the universal sense was that giving was going down from at least one key source of support - individual donors. Layoffs at the Komen Foundation and two other smaller organizations as a result of smaller budgets were the sotto voce topic in the hallways between sessions.

I was hoping to find some real-time data on nonprofit employment statistics to get a closer sense of this. I'm guessing that most nonprofit jobs are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics within "service providing," possibly within the subcategory "education and health services." The bigger category dropped only a 108 jobs from September to October and the narrower category actually added 21 jobs - see preliminary data below from BLS. (p = preliminary data)
| | | | | |
Nonfarm employment.......| 137,699|p137,371| 137,423|p137,139|p136,899| p-240
Goods-producing (1)....| 21,565| p21,363| 21,367| p21,284| p21,152| p-132
Construction ........| 7,242| p7,148| 7,153| p7,118| p7,069| p-49
Manufacturing .......| 13,563| p13,428| 13,426| p13,370| p13,280| p-90
Service-providing (1)..| 116,134|p116,008| 116,056|p115,855|p115,747| p-108
Retail trade (2)...| 15,337| p15,269| 15,275| p15,230| p15,192| p-38
Professional and | | | | | |
business services .| 17,980| p17,858| 17,854| p17,815| p17,770| p-45
Education and health | | | | | |
services ..........| 18,823| p18,971| 18,997| p18,981| p19,002| p21
Leisure and | | | | | |
hospitality .......| 13,683| p13,637| 13,639| p13,618| p13,602| p-16
Government ..........| 22,439| p22,496| 22,514| p22,473| p22,496| p23
I'm using common sense here, which may be wrong. Please let me know if 1) my analysis above is flawed and 2) if there is a better, readily available source of employment data in the nonprofit/philanthropic space - and we can add employment in the sector to the growing list of key indicators we need to track. Even if my approach above is accurate, it won't give us a lens on social enterprise, public agency, or CSR jobs.

But what I really want to point out is a fine distinction that we need to consider when we look at philanthropic giving. Is the money coming from "already committed" philanthropic sources or is it "charitable choice giving?" I'd qualify "already committed" philanthropy as the following - gifts from foundations, even at increased payout rates, gifts from donor advised funds, gifts from trusts, etc. The trade-off being made on these dollars is growth for the future or giving now. That's a tough trade-off for sure, and its why you see some foundations projecting lower grant budgets for 2009 and others saying they'll be growing or spending more. We may even see a bump in giving from donor advised funds - donors may well look around and say "today's needs matter more than growing this pool." That is wonderful - but remember the tradeoff doesn't hurt the donor, he or she has already given that money.

The other category, "charitable choice giving" contains money that is either going to go to charity or its going to pay for food, heat, gas, rent, savings, entertainment, or other daily expenses. The trade off here is keenly felt by the actual donor - to give the money, he or she may have to give up something else. Now, we don't have data on this distinction (or do we?) and will no doubt need to rely on surveys and interviews and anecdotes. Beth's post, and this survey from PayPal, are encouraging -- lots of folks are definitely "choosing charity." And this is a choice we each make and can encourage others to as well.

But, it isn't what I'm hearing in the hallways.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think I meant that the people stepping forward to give and being creative in light of bad economic needs would turn around the economy or impact on nonprofits - was just looking for some positive.

With giving down and the bad economy - probably forcing may to take a hard look and make hard choices that hopefully lead to better quality programs with more impact .. if I can find a positive.