U.S./world – Charity pulse – Impact of terror

With donations nearing $1 billion in the four weeks since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., a handful of new surveys offer mixed signals about what’s in store for charity in the U.S.

While the surveys show no clear trends, one suggests charitable giving could suffer from the impact of war, the slumping economy and the drain on donors and funders who have dug deep to support victims of the attacks.

The attacks and their aftermath could push the already-stumbling U.S. economy into a recession, say the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which examined the economic and charitable impact of 13 major events of terrorism, war and political or economic crises.

During the past four decades, the survey by the two groups says, giving has grown at an average annual rate of 7.6 percent – but at only about 5 percent during recessions.

The survey also expects an outpouring of small gifts ranging from $25 to $100 to support relief efforts – but says that outpouring is likely to be “relatively short-term and to have little impact on total giving or on the distribution of giving” to various causes such as education, health and the environment.

They also say that, to help those affected by the attacks, some corporations will reallocate their giving within their usual levels – about 1 percent of corporate pre-tax profits for most years in the past several decades.

In a separate survey, Boston-based Cone, a consulting firm that advises companies on philanthropic strategy, says companies should avoid touting themselves or seeming heavy-handed in their support for relief efforts stemming from the terrorist attacks.

Nearly three in four Americans say its appropriate for companies to hold fundraising events to support victims, and more than six in 10 say it’s appropriate to tie a share of proceeds of a product to supporting victims, the survey says.

But only half believe companies should ask employees to donate to a fund that supports victim, ask consumers to donate at the point of purchase, or advertise what they’re doing to support victims.

One in four Americans don’t support those approaches, while another one in four aren’t sure whether they’re appropriate.

GivingCapital, a Philadelphia-based ephilanthropy firm that makes charitable investment software for financial services companies and nonprofits, says the terrorist attacks have made wealthy people more bullish about charity.

Based on a set of surveys conducted before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, GivingCapital says, more than three in four Americans with at least $75,000 in annual income now believe charity is more important than ever, up nearly 20 percent.

The number of wealth people who believe it is “okay” to reduce their giving when the market goes down fell nearly 40 percent in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

More than 45 percent of those polled after the attacks say charities need donations and that “giving should remain the same regardless of the state of the stock market,” up more than 25 percent from the poll conducted before the attacks.   

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