News and analysis
October 01, 2010

Donors Plan to Give the Same or Less This Year, a New Poll Suggests

Donors are less sure than they were in June about their economic future and even less confident about their charitable giving, according to a new poll.

The Donor Confidence Index compiled by Campbell Rinker, a marketing-research company, fell 3.2 points in August to 86.5 out of a 100, a score that is lower than at any other point since December 2008.

Confidence levels among supporters of every type of cause measured by the index dropped. The biggest declines in confidence were seen among donors who give to political and advocacy causes (minus 6.4 points), international relief and development groups (minus 6.1 points), and religious charities (minus 5.2 points). That is the first time every type of cause has suffered a downturn among potential supporters in the three years the company has been conducting the survey.

The report says donors’ lack of confidence about a quick economic recovery and increased pressure on personal finances reflected the declines despite a recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research that says the worst recession in decades ended in June 2009. Fifty-one percent of donors in the Campbell Rinker poll expect the economy to require more than two years to rebound.

“Events are coming together to influence confidence among donors in every single sector in the nonprofit world to cause them to draw back,” says Dirk Rinker, president of Campbell Rinker.

Donors, he says, are uncertain about the future. “They feel like there’s less opportunity,” Mr. Rinker says. “They hear news reports of high unemployment, and that translates to lack of opportunity for them.”

Giving Forecast

About half of all donors say they expect to give the “same amount” this year from last year. Another 29 percent plan to give less, citing the continuing poor economy as the main reason for doing so, while only 17 percent plan to give more. Unexpected expenses have had a negative effect on their giving, about half of the respondents said.

The bimonthly index is based on data from 510 donors who answered questions in August through September about their charitable intentions, their outlook on the nation’s economy and optimism for the future.