NYCT Donors Already $102 Million Ahead of 2019

New York-area donors have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by giving $102 million more this year through their local community foundation than they did during 2019.

Donors to New York Community Trust (NYCT) have given $196 million so far in 2020 compared with $94 million in 2019, including $98 million in gifts to support nonprofits impacted by the pandemic. Grantmaking by NYCT already has surpassed the total for 2019 and it’s a trend that goes beyond the metropolitan area. Giving at the top 10 community foundations is up 40 percent this year.

So far this year, NYCT has made $233 million in grants to 4,650 nonprofits via 9,200 grant payments. The trust made $175 million in grants to more than 5,000 nonprofits via 11,377 grant payments during all of 2019.

The increase reflects national trends in giving via donor-advised funds (DAF) at the largest community foundations increasing more than 40 percent compared to 2019, according to the Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative.

NYCT created four funds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring, to send money where it was most needed in the region. The vast majority of the $98 million, raised from 1,700 donors, already has been distributed, according to Gay Young, vice president for donor services. COVID-specific giving has driven much of the massive increase in this year’s giving, up from $94 million in 2019 to $196 million this year.

NYCT held a virtual press briefing today about charitable giving trends heading into the year-end giving season. The trust covers eight downstate counties: the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Westchester County.

Gifts of non-cash assets in particular have seen a spike, Young said, likely due to the bull market, an element of the economy that remains disconnected from high unemployment and other challenges  brought on by the pandemic.

Trust donors are giving more gifts of public securities and other non-cash assets to their DAFs, at a pace almost twice that of 2019. Non-cash gifts to DAFs from January to October 2019 was $21.6 million while for the same period this year is $42 million.

There’s also been an uptick in donors interested in updating their wills, with COVID igniting more interest because it’s made people think about their mortality, Young said. The increase in these types of conversations creates more opportunities to secure planned gifts from donors, she added.

“At the local level, we’re not seeing a big shift in giving priorities because the needs have stayed so constant,” said Shawn Morehead, vice president for grants at NYCT. The need in New York is extraordinary because of COVID and it will continue into the holiday season and 2021. Unemployment remains higher than the national rate, the city and state face massive budget gaps, and the hard-hit arts and tourism industries will be slow to return. Nonprofits, she said, expect to struggle well into next year as emergency funding dries up.

In a crisis, donors tend to give to causes that are most talked about, in the press and their communities. Lines at food pantries and such capture people’s attention and New York donors tend to be very loyal to the organizations they care about and support, Lorie Slutsky, NYCT’s president, said. “So I think we see bifurcated giving. If a nonprofit does not fit in the human services camp, and not a donors list, they might have seen a little donor fatigue,” she said.

People often give emotionally, Young said, to things that tug at their heart strings, things they’ve long supported, organizations they know, and others who have asked them to give.