Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is It A Turnaround Or Are We Just Running In Circles?

At this moment the Dow is up another 96 points (Wed. Oct. 14th, 11a EDT). The spectacular run-up in the stock market since the March low may or may not be a chimera. The high unemployment rate shows that all is not well in the economy and it is established fact that Wall Street is not really connected to the rest of the country. So what for next year? Six months or a year from now I'll look back at this post and see how well I did.

The huge grant-making foundations and university endowments lost money but are now making back much of that loss. They may not get back to their all-time highs anytime soon, or maybe never. But the question is if the market surge continues will grant-making and endowment income improve in 2010? If you are a nonprofit board member you should be asking your managements if they are budgeting for an improvement in the foundation line in 2010. Those on June 30 and September 30 fiscal years are already into the 2010 fiscal year and their boards (presumably) have approved budgets. Of course they can be amended - but should they? There are no signals coming from the foundation world to guide us that I have seen. They seem hunkered down, quietly amassing gains.

So here I go (again): if you are already a grantee I would ask/hope for a modest increase in funding - say 5-10%. If you're a new supplicant I think you'll find that most foundations have not opened the window. I doubt they will much before the late mid-last quarter of 2010.

Old line corporate philanthropy will not see much of a boost in 2010 but the trend to cause-related marketing will, I think, continue to widen and deepen with more and more charities trying to get in. One CRM firm I work with is running ahead even this year. By the way if you are familiar with the statistics Giving USA publishes annually keep in mind that they don't report on CRM because they haven't quite figured out how to get the data: what's charity (which is what GUSA measures); what's marketing?

That leaves individuals and family foundations. I think that as 2010 wears on we will see a very health boost in individual giving and we all know that - dead and alive - individual giving is about 80% of all giving as measured by GUSA.

In "Back To School," my September 9th post I advocated caution. I still do but a month later I have loosened the belt one notch.

I have been telling clients and professional colleagues all this year to plan for the turnaround. Is the turnaround here or are we just going in circles?

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