Features

Funding fears

Charity

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

Will the nation's economic storm zap U.S. charities? While the data won't be in until well after the holiday giving season, the nation's nonprofits are already bracing for a blow.

World Vision's Phillipe Guiton, for example, said his group plans to trim hiring, a move that will likely affect the delivery of overseas aid. "What we are going to do now is to issue an order to reduce spending, to delay recruitment, delay purchases of capital assets, etc., until we can see clearer how much our income has dropped," Guiton said.

Other groups, such as Catholic Relief Services and CARE International, say they're watching to see whether major donors will recover from portfolio shock in time to continue year-end giving at previous levels.

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In July, Atlanta-based Grizzard Communications Group, a marketing firm that specializes in promoting nonprofits, surveyed individuals who had made a financial contribution to a charity other than a house of worship in the past 12 months. Among 495 respondents, only 44 percent expected to give at the same level in the fourth quarter of 2008 that they did during the same period last year. Thirteen percent planned to increase their giving, while 29 percent planned to give less or stop giving altogether. Some charities may benefit from a bit of good news from Congress. Earlier this month, President Bush extended the sunset on a philanthropic provision tucked into the Pension Protection Act. This "qualified charitable distribution" permits donors ages 70½ and up to roll over up to $100,000 from a qualified IRA directly to a qualifying charity without counting the donation as income.

Empty hands

The annual report of an Illinois-based service and research group, empty tomb inc., said there has been a general "downward trend" in church-member giving through 2006. The study's authors are calling for a "global triage to treat what ails the church."

"It's difficult to avoid the label of 'lukewarm' when analyzing the church's level of response to Jesus' Great Commandment and Great Commission," said John Ronsvalle, who co-authored the study with his wife, Sylvia.

"The total portion of per capita income given to churches in 2006 was lower than in the worst year of the Great Depression," the authors found.

Helping hand

President Bush recently signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which reauthorizes state adoption incentives, promotes adoption of children with special needs, and increases awareness of adoption assistance. Tom Atwood, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption, said the bipartisan law "provides for a wide array of reforms to benefit children and their interest in adoption."

Current law calls for a tax credit of over $11,000 per family per child adopted. The average adoption in the United States costs between $15,000 and $20,000. Adoption advocates hope that this new law, combined with the tax credit, will make the high cost less of an issue for families wanting to adopt.

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