'Hope out there in the world'

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

Overall charitable giving declined nationally in 2009, but there are promising signs locally, state-wide and across the country, with certain nonprofits seeing an increase in donations, certain donor groups donating more money, and some local groups seeing an increase in donations.

A report released Wednesday from the Giving USA Foundation, researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, said total charitable contributions from American individuals, corporations and foundations was $303.75 billion in 2009.

This is down 3.6 percent from $315.08 billion in 2008. Adjusted for deflation, that number is down 3.2 percent.

However, some nonprofit sectors - human services, health, international aid and those aimed at helping the environment and animals - saw increased contributions.

Giving to religion, education, public-society benefit organizations, and arts, culture and humanities organizations declined.

"Speculation was swirling for many months that charitable giving had to be down by a great percentage in 2009," said Nancy Raybin, chair of Giving Institute: Leading Consultants to Non-Profits, in a press release. "Anecdotally, our experts across the country heard that strong giving in December made all the difference, and the totals for the year bear that assumption out."

Nationally, individual giving fell 0.4 percent, to $227.4 billion, but that's a change of zero after being adjusted for deflation.

United Way of Southeast Alaska President Brenda Hewitt said she suspects individual giving is up in Alaska.

"Anecdotally, I'm saying that," she said. "Just relating different stories, and looking at cash flows - I dare say that I think Alaska wasn't as hard hit (with the economic downturn) as other parts of the U.S., and I think we're finally realizing that."

Laurie Wolf, vice president of programs at the Foraker Group, an organization focused on strengthening Alaska's nonprofits, said there is no current data on charitable trends in Alaska.

The group is, however, currently redoing a study on the economic impact of the nonprofit sector on Alaska, which touches on philanthropy, she said.

One promising trend state-wide is that the "best intentions" of Pick.Click.Give donors wishing to donate money from their Permanent Fund Dividends has almost doubled, from $500,000 last year to $927,000 so far this year. The number of donors also has nearly doubled, Wolf said.

Locally, Capital City Fire Rescue raised $10,870 for their "Fill-the-boot" fundraiser for the fight against neuromuscular disease last week, up from last year's $5,800, though firefighter/EMT Noah Jenkins said that's likely mostly due to the department being more organized and holding the event on two days instead of one this year.

United Way of Southeast Alaska's pledges were up seven percent in their last drive, for a total of a little more than $400,000.

"We're happy," Hewitt said. "There's hope out there in the world."

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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