One of many reasons, I love living in the Desert is the sense of community. Whether it is volunteering, donating big or small, almost everyone I know is involved in some sort of giving with a local school, shelter, church or other charitable organization. Here, in the Desert, it seems, general attitude is one of generosity.
I had my own gut feelings that perhaps maybe, just maybe, amidst all the bad news about the economy that struggling non-profits on our local level might be more resilient and doing better than expected. Personally, I have attended quite a few fundraising events since the beginning of the year and was struck by generosity of everyone attending. Events like 2011 Palm Springs Film Festival and Zoobilee benefiting the Living Desert brought in more money than expected. Even fundraising efforts of local schools, like my daughter’s school, reported record breaking numbers this year. Is it possible that things are not as bad as expected, or better yet, are we doing better? I was curious to find out more.
Sandra Viden-Martins from the local Animal Samaritans SPCA said “Animal Samaritans continues to be challenged by a need for additional charitable contributions to support its programs and services. We are pleased, however, that an increasing number of caring individuals have chosen to include the organization in their estate planning. As well, our “Men of the Desert” fundraiser in January was well attended and helped introduce Animal Samaritans to a number of new supporters.”
Photo from the recent 2011 Walk for the Animals -Animal Samaritans SPCA
Jasenka Sabanovic, serving on the board of Women Leaders Forum and Shelter from the Storm said: “Many organizations are looking for different, more creative ways to raise money, like Bachelor Auction (benefiting Shelter from the Storm). If someone has to choose, they will always go for more entertaining and fun event. Also, event planning is cutting on cost a lot, so it seems that we are raising more money. It is a good thing, that way more money goes to charity, versus the event decorations for example.”
Some interesting data came from the recent Desert Estate Planning Council Meeting where the topic was charitable giving. CEO of the Living Desert said that while it was too early to be optimistic, he is encouraged to see that despite downward trend of dollar value of gifts that number of gifts is steady or trending upward.
Also at the same meeting, Raúl Bustillos, SVP & Inland Empire Market Manager from Bank of America presented the findings of Nonprofit Finance Fund 2011 Survey and 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Study of High Net worth Philanthropy researched and written by The Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University. He presented these findings with preface that we, here in the Coachella Valley, might be better off than others due to more diverse population.
According to Nonprofit Finance Fund 2011 Survey “America’s Nonprofits struggle to meet fast climbing demand for services and 87% of nonprofits say the recession has not ended.” Below are some findings from this survey that I found interesting.
"2011 will be another tough year for non-profits and the people they serve
- 85% of organizations expect an increase in service demand in 2011; just 46% expect to be able to fully meet this demand.
- 60% of organizations have three months or less of cash on hand; 10% have none.
Yes, there are signs of hope:
- 44% of nonprofits reported ending 2010 with a surplus, a move in the right direction from 35% who had surplus in 2009.
- 25% of organizations added to reserve funds in 2010.
- 35% of organizations raised more revenue in 2010 than anticipated.
- “Lifeline” organizations that provide critical services to people in need are finding it particularly hard to meet the demands in their communities
Nonprofits are coping with the “new normal” of fewer resources…Over the past 12 months:
- 55% added or expanded program and services
- 49% increased the number of clients served
- 47% partnered with another organization to improve or increase services offered
- 39% reduced annual expenses
- 36% relied more on volunteers. "
Some of the more interesting parts of the 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy include the following ( please note that findings reflect data compiled by the end of 2009
" High net worth households continued to support charitable organizations at levels seen in 2005 and 2007 (98.2 % of high net worth households donated to charity in 2009)
- Average charitable giving by high net households between 2007 and 2009 dropped 34.9%.
- A few subsectors saw increases, between 4% and 21%, in the average amount given by wealthy households including arts, environmental/animal care, international causes and to giving vehicles. Other subsectors saw more significant declines from 2007, with giving to health experiencing a 63.7% decline, education a 55% decline, and combined purpose organizations (such as United Way, United Jewish Appeal, or Catholic Charities) experiencing a 44% decline.
- The more high net worth individuals volunteered, the more they gave.
- Over half of high net worth individuals gave their largest gift in 2009 to fund the general operations at nonprofit organizations. Approximately, 36% of high-net households gave their largest gift to fund a particular program, and 23.5% gave to support the growth of the organizations. Households were less likely to give their largest gift to support capital gifts (e.g. construction of a building or to purchase equipment) in 2009 (14.2%) than in 2007 (23.6 %).
- The top three reasons why donors reported they stopped giving to a particular charity is because
o They were too frequently solicited or asked inappropriate amount (58.9%)
o They decided to support other causes (34.2%)
o Their household circumstances changed (29.4%)"
As an estate planning attorney, I am personally interested in this topic as charitable giving is something many of my clients think about as they plan their estate. The most common vehicle they use is leaving certain percentage of their cash estate to the charity in their trust or will, but also giving specific assets such as jewelry, paintings, unused land is viable option for many.
If you are interested in donating your time or money, check with your favorite organization what you can do to help. Each organization will most likely have their forms on how to donate cash or specific assets in your trust and will. Besides money or volunteering, many organizations need professionals on their Board who have business acumen, specific industry experience or can provide their professional insight how to raise money.
As a final thought, I sense that cautious optimism many non-profits feel about economy and charitable giving is backed by knowledge that we are fortunate that we live right here, in the Coachella Valley, where philanthropy is responsible for building so much of our community, and the spirit is the one of generosity.
If you have a thought on this subject or work with the local non-profit I am curious to know your opinion. Please comment below or message me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo below: My wife Ana & I @ 2011 Zoobilee 2011 benefiting Living Desert