Giving Grew After September 11 Terror Attacks

June 1, 2002       Gina Bernacchi      

Despite the challenges of September 11 and a slowing economy, nearly 60 percent of charities raised more money in 2001 than in 2000, according to the latest survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

The results of the survey, which asked charities to compare fundraising totals at the end of December, 2001 to the amount raised at the end of 2000, correspond to statistics from an earlier September 11 survey by Alexandria, Va.-based AFP conducted in October, 2001. At that time, 56 percent of respondents indicated that they were raising the same or more money than in October, 2000.

“After September 11 we heard a lot of anecdotal stories coming out of the media about the effects of September 11 on charitable contributions,” said Paulette Maehara, AFP’s president and CEO. “We were concerned that it seemed to be more of a crisis by anecdote – picking isolated situations and making large-scale assumptions based on that – rather than what the reality is.”

The survey also shows that an additional 10 percent of charities raised the same amount of money in 2001 as in 2000, and slightly more than 15 percent of respondents raised at least 30 percent more funds.

In addition, despite the myriad issues affecting the public in 2001, many charities were able to find new donors. More than 20 percent of respondents indicated that 16 percent or more of donors gave to their organization for the first time in 2001. Of previous donors, more than a third of respondents indicated that 10 percent or more of their donors increased their giving.

According to the October, 2001 survey – which compared fundraising totals both before and after September 11 to funds raised during the same time periods in 2000 – most organizations were having a successful fundraising year before September 11, with more than 50 percent reporting increases in funds raised at the end of August 2001 compared to the previous year.

An additional 23 percent were keeping pace with 2000 totals. However, roughly a quarter of respondents were also experiencing decreases at the end of August, compared to the same period a year earlier. At the end of October 2001, 44 percent of charities surveyed reported decreases in funding levels compared to the previous year.

Despite this drop, Maehara said that the results of both surveys substantiate her belief that philanthropy always does better during times of crisis. “The awareness of the need is so great that not only do people give to the crisis, but they give to other concerns as well,” she said. “The average donor gives to 15 causes. It’s no surprise that they will give additional money to a crisis. The question is, will they give all their charitable money exclusively to the crisis? The answer here is no, they won’t. The awareness level of the donor is so great in a crisis situation of not only the immediate need, but of all societal needs. It brings home the importance of what philanthropy does for the community.”

One example of a nonprofit that has fared well since September 11 is the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Rockville, Md., a skilled nursing facility, which saw a 12 percent increase in its annual giving from 2000 to 2001. Nicholas B. Simmonds, vice president, development/public affairs, credits this increase in funding to a diverse donor base that, in the midst of a crisis, still recognized the needs of the Hebrew Home.

“I think, by and large, that established charities managed to do OK in spite of everything,” he said. “The Hebrew Home has been in this community for 92 years. In as much as our donors recognized the emergency nature of the aftermath of September 11 and contributed to disaster relief, they continued to support us while making any additional contributions to September 11. It was ‘in addition to,’ rather than ‘instead of’.”

Barbara Shaw, executive director of the Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations (CANPO) in Denver, believes that individual funding is what has sustained Colorado nonprofits. “We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal stories about people not raising as much as they had hoped,” she said. “Around September 11 and right after, a lot of people thought things looked awful, but individual giving held up at the end of the year. Corporate and foundation giving is down somewhat, but individual giving has held.”

While the October, 2001 survey shows that, at the end of that month, nearly 60 percent of charities were at or above their 2000 totals, the number with a shortfall nearly doubled.

When comparing August to October month-end totals, arts/cultural/humanities (ACH) organizations and environmental groups had the largest level of decline. Nearly half of ACH organizations reported growth in funds raised through August. This number dropped to 30 percent in October. By October, more than half of ACH groups reported decreases in funds raised. However, more than 40 percent were reporting decreases in August, so many of these declines had already started before September 11.

Environmental organizations also saw an increase in funds raised at the end of August, 2001 compared to the year before. But, by the end of October, 2001, the majority of these organizations saw a decrease in funds raised compared to October, 2000. The April, 2002 survey, however, showed increases in fundraising for the year in nearly all charitable groups, especially among social services and religious organizations. Although September 11 definitely had an impact on fundraising totals in 2001, it is difficult to determine how much of the decreases in funds raised were also the result of the slowing economy.

“The other side of the positive story is that there are charitable organizations that have been impacted by both the economy and September 11,” Maehara said. “The majority of respondents said the economy had more of an impact. There were some organizations that were hit harder than others, environmental being one of them, as well as the arts/cultural/humanities organizations. In times of great crisis, people tend to focus on those entities that provide social services. Arts organizations are perhaps not ‘top of the mind’.

” The October, 2001 survey also shows that some types of fundraising methods and campaigns performed better than others, including planned giving programs, which showed little change from August to October. However, in October, more organizations reported decreases in funds raised through annual funds, direct mail solicitation and major gift campaigns than they did in August.

Religious groups were growing steadily before September 11, and many continued to see an increase in funds raised after September 11. The percentage of religious groups reporting decreases at the end of October was the lowest overall among all types of organizations. Peter Ticconi, senior planned giving advisor at the Johns Hopkins Institutions in Baltimore, said that it’s no surprise that planned giving programs have fared well.

“It’s serendipitous,” Ticconi said. “We in planned giving have these conversations with people that are ongoing. Because of these ongoing discussions, we’re able to pick up where we left off last. What’s going to influence a donor’s actions is something that’s going to impact his or her life. That something could be personal or a national or international thing, something that just tips them into acting. September 11 is one of those situations in life where something happened, and you’re tipped into action.”

Maehara thinks the future looks promising for nonprofits. When asked how their fundraising would fare in 2002, 58 percent of the April 2002 survey respondents said that giving to their organization would increase, and 28 percent said it would remain about the same.

“I think the trends will continue to go up,” Maehara said. “If you go back in history, philanthropy has continued to grow over the last 40 years. My sense is it will continue to grow, because this crisis has only heightened the awareness and importance of philanthropy to our society. And I don’t believe this is exclusive to the United States. I believe this will have a global effect and underscore the importance of giving around the world.”

Gina Bernacchi is a reporter for the Denver News Bureau

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