January 28, 2021

GuideStar Survey: Hard Times for Charitable Organizations

Hard Times for Charitable Organizations - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 018

Last November, when we reported on the results of our annual nonprofit economic survey, we warned, “Fasten Your Seatbelts: It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Giving Season.” As 2008 ended and 2009 began, we saw a deluge of news reports about the economy’s impact, including its effect on nonprofits. Given the severity of the downturn and the number of stories about organizations adversely affected by it, we decided to do a follow-up nonprofit economic survey.

We invited Newsletter subscribers associated with 501(c)(3) public charities and private foundations to participate in the survey. Readers representing 2,979 organizations took the survey on-line between March 2 and March 16, 2009. Here’s what they told us.

Bumpy Giving Season and New Year, Indeed

We asked, “Did total contributions to your organization increase, decrease, or stay about the same between October 2008 and February 2009, compared to the same period a year earlier?” Some 52 percent of organizations reported a decrease. That figure was significantly higher than the 35 percent who reported lower contributions for January-September 2008, which was nearly double the 19 percent who reported a decline for January-September 2007

Change in Contributions

Period Covered by SurveyContributions DecreasedContributions Stayed about the SameContributions IncreasedDon’t Know
October 2008-February 200952%27%20%1%
January-September 200835%25%38%2%
January-September 200719%25%52%4%

Some 31 percent of organizations stated that contributions had dropped “modestly,” and 21 percent said that they had fallen “greatly.” An equal number-71 percent-of organizations for which contributions had dropped cited “Gifts from individuals were smaller” and “Fewer individuals gave” as causes of the decrease.

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