News and analysis
June 19, 2011

How Different Causes Fared in 2010—and What 2011 May Bring

Following is a look at how much “Giving USA” said donations increased or decreased to specific causes, plus The Chronicle’s reporting on the outlook for 2011 based on interviews with dozens of nonprofit leaders.



Increase in support, according to “Giving USA”: 13.5 percent

Opportunities and challenges: Because many groups that work overseas rely heavily on government support, they are now facing cuts. As a result, many are stepping up their efforts to diversify their revenue sources.

Outlook for 2011: “There remains a perception of a strong interest in international issues, so there is hope for fund raising in the future,” says Samuel A. Worthington, president of InterAction, a membership group of international organizations. But competition for gifts remains fierce, he says, and talk of mergers and collaboration is rife.


Advocacy and federated drives


Increase in support, according to “Giving USA”: 4.5 percent

Opportunities and challenges: Groups in the “public-society benefit” section of “Giving USA” include United Ways, Jewish federations, and advocacy groups as well as donor-advised funds. Such groups face challenges persuading middle-class people to give because many of them are still struggling with unemployment, declining housing values, and other economic woes. What’s more, they say, many affluent donors are still anxious about committing to major gifts. However, donor-advised funds are on an upswing: For instance, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund reported in April that it was seeing a 25-percent increase in money donated to its accounts in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.

Outlook for 2011: Uncertain, reflecting the state of the economy overall. And as the presidential race heats up, advocacy groups in particular may find themselves in competition with political campaigns for donors’ dollars.


Arts and culture


Increase in support, according to “Giving USA”: 4.1 percent

Opportunities and challenges: Corporate support got scarcer in the recession and continues to be so. In tough times, arts groups may be a tougher sell to donors than charities that serve the needy, and many cultural organizations suffered steep drops in support.

Outlook for 2011: Brighter, but “every community has its quirks,” notes Susan Hennessy, development and special-events coordinator at Opera Colorado, in Denver. Cities hit hardest by the recession, and especially groups that depend heavily on corporate support, may find a tougher fight for donations.




Increase in support, according to “Giving USA”: 3.5 percent

Opportunities and challenges: With the stock market much improved from recent years (though still volatile), more big donors are opening their wallets. But many capital campaigns stalled during the downturn.

Outlook for 2011: For colleges, universities, and private schools, gifts from wealthy donors will probably continue to increase, and more capital campaigns are being started or getting a jump-start. But grass-roots education groups may struggle.




Decrease in support, according to “Giving USA”: 0.3 percent

Opportunities and challenges: Capital campaigns were delayed or hampered during the downturn, and public pressure for hospitals to provide more charity care increased. But more health-care organizations are making greater efforts to persuade affluent “grateful patients” to give.

Outlook for 2011: Hospitals are “doing better, and some have more than recovered” from recession lows, says William McGinly, president of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, thanks in part to efforts to woo wealthy people. But organizations in still-struggling parts of the country are lagging, and cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements threaten the bottom line for many institutions. “Philanthropy is becoming more important, but it cannot fill these gaps,” says Mr. McGinly.




Decrease in support, according to “Giving USA”: 0.8

Opportunities and challenges: In a tough economy, many middle-class parishioners—and donors—are suffering alongside the poor people religious charities traditionally help. But supporters’ devotion to faith-fueled values has helped prevent a deeper slide in donations.

Outlook for 2011: Modest hope, and a trend toward making appeals to younger donors.


Human services

Social Services

Decrease in support, according to “Giving USA”: 1.5

Opportunities and challenges: Cuts in government aid and spiraling needs make for a harrowing imbalance, but the nature of social-service charities’ work enables them to make a compelling case to donors. (This category, says “Giving USA,” included most 2010 philanthropy aimed at helping Haiti’s earthquake victims. If international giving had been excluded from the total, researchers say, giving to human services would have dropped by 5.6 percent, the largest decline among all causes.)

Outlook for 2011: Most human-service groups will continue to struggle to raise funds, and more government support cutbacks are expected. “The biggest pain is at the local level,” says Irv Katz, president of the National Human Services Assembly, an umbrella group. Charities that serve children and youths are likely to continue to spend money to reach out to potential supporters through social media.


Environment and animal welfare


Decrease in support, according to “Giving USA”: 2.3

Opportunities and challenges: Environmental groups have suffered losses among big donors, and support for grass-roots advocacy may be slipping, too: The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 appears to have failed to rally donors to give more to environmental groups, according to a survey by Target Analytics.

Outlook for 2011: Improved, but the optimism is cautious. Environmental groups plan to step up efforts to forge corporate-marketing ties and secure gifts from wealthy donors.