Monday, November 24, 2014


Today is National Philanthropy Day in New York. It will be marked by a big luncheon at the Plaza. Along with the metaphoric rubber chicken and gooey red sauce on the chocolate dessert, outstanding philanthropic leadership in the tri-state area will be recognized by AFP, the Association of Fundraising Professionals. NPD was proclaimed as November 15th each year by President Reagan to mark the extraordinary role of philanthropy and voluntarism in national life.  It has grown in acceptance over time and is now celebrated all around the country though not always on the 15th.

I generally try to avoid large events. But for NPD I up the Compazine and attend because in the one warm chamber of my heart I actually appreciate everything everyone does to make the world a better place, no matter how hard, how long, or how messy the process may be. Change is one person at a time and it adds up. The private nonprofit sector, according to a White House report, employs 14 million people, 10% of the work force; and generates some $1.6 trillion in output, 5% of GNP. Over $335 billion of that is philanthropic giving. Though I may question the accuracy of this datum I have read that 60 million Americans volunteer. Whatever the real number may be voluntary action in the US is assuredly mega-class.

Following the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday and then Cyber Monday, two days a year when US consumerism is at its rabid worst. As you have seen we barely got through Halloween before the holiday hawking began. In the past people have died in the stampede to load up on “stuff.” Next week we will have Giving Tuesday, a one day push for an extra gift to whatever charities anyone might favor. I’ll write about it next week. Meanwhile you might visit

For now enjoy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 7, 2014

... Sayeth the The New York Times today, November 7th.

This meaningless headline tops a two-column story asserting that "charitable giving is back in a big way." But is it? Yes it has improved since the recession. Those years hit the sector hard and there has been a modest recovery. And for that we should be grateful because no profits, especially those in the human services field, need every cent they can generate, particularly operating funds.

I don't  know what "new donor generation" they're talking about. Zuckerberg's $25 million gift to the CDC to "fight" Ebola is certainly significant especially because the US charitable response to Ebola has been dismal; the big relief agencies have been mum. Only Doctors Without Borders has been a consistent voice.

As a percentage of GDP giving remains locked at around plus or minus 2%; that hasn't changed for as  long as records have been kept. And the slowest part of the charitable sector to recover has been individual giving, described  by the Times as "the biggest drag." Many people think that foundations and corporations are hugely account for most of the $335 billion donated last year. But in fact the greatest percentage of giving is from living individuals. Internet giving is marginal; social media's impact on giving has been modest at best.

We are certainly  in a better place than we were a few years ago. Between now and year end charity will generate around 30-40% of its total annual giving revenue. We will know within a few months whether US charitable giving is inching up or really rebounding.