Charitable Giving Down In 2009

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The economy spent much of 2009 in a severe recession. That's made life difficult for many charities, which saw demand for their services go up while donations fell off. A new report by The Chronicle of Philanthropy shows a huge drop in the biggest gifts.


The downturn in the economy means demand for charitable social services is up. But a new report finds that the biggest givers give a lot less.

NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER: Some of the names on the list of top donors this year are no surprise. Wealthy individuals such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and George Soros; they have given to foundations and special causes, such as the Climate Policy Initiative, which received $100 million from Soros. But overall, the top 10 gifts this year totaled only $2.7 billion. That's about a third of what was given by the top donors in 2008.

Stacy Palmer, editor of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy," which compiled the figures, says the bad economy is to blame.

Ms. STACY PALMER (Editor, "The Chronicle of Philanthropy"): Even the very wealthy decided that they needed to figure out what they were doing with their finances and where their money would make the most difference. So they really stopped for a while and were not making any large commitments.

PALMER: Even so, she says, some of this year's gifts are striking and reflected interest by big donors in doing more to help those hurt by the recession. The largest gift was from chemical company heir John C. Haas. He gave $747 million dollars to the William Penn Foundation, which makes grants to arts and community groups in the Philadelphia area.

Real estate developer J. Ronald Terwilliger pledged $100 million to Habitat for Humanity, and Cincinnati arts patron Louis Nippert gave $85 million to support the city's struggling arts groups.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.

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