Uncertain economy casts shadow on fundraising

Nonprofits are somewhat less optimistic about present and future fundraising than they were six months ago and one year ago, says a new study from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“The percentage of fundraisers reporting a negative impact of the economy on giving has grown significantly,” Patrick M. Rooney, the center’s director of research, says in a statement.

Twice a year, the center surveys professional fundraisers on the fundraising climate to compile an overall Philanthropic Giving Index; a Present Situations Index, which gauges the current giving environment; and an Expectations Index, which looks ahead toward the next six months.

The higher the score on a scale of 1 to 100, the more optimistic are attitudes about fundraising.

Based on the most recent survey, the overall index was 82.8 percent, a decrease of 6 percent since December 2007 and 4.7 percent from this time last year.

The present Situation Index was 81.7, down 6.3 percent from six months ago and 3.7 percent from a year ago.

The Expectations Index, at 83.9, also dropped in the six-month and annual time-frames, declining by 5.8 percent.

Only 0.7 percent of fundraisers said the impact of the economy on giving has been positive, down from about 28 percent in December 2007.

Some fundraisers see a turnaround, however.

A little over 15 percent predicted a positive impact of the economy on fundraising six months from now, but 62.7 percent believe it will remain negative.

Eugene R. Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, says that many donors still want to give despite the economic climate, so nonprofits should diversify funding sources, create or strengthen major gift programs and find new ways to communicate their impact on the causes they serve.

In the recent study, a majority of fundraisers said special events are effective fundraising tools for their organizations.

Just under one-third reported receiving between $15,000 and $49,999 in net revenue from their most recent special event.

Nearly 30 percent of the respondents said their most recent special event had been a benefit dinner with an auction, while 20.2 percent held a sporting event.

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