Philanthropy grows in 2013, but so does need

12/31/2013
BY DIANE STAFFORD
THE KANSAS CITY STAR
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a $350 million pledge to Johns Hopkins University in 2013. Philanthropy in 2013 made a comeback in large donations with the nation’s wealthiest donors giving more than $3.4 billion to charity.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a $350 million pledge to Johns Hopkins University in 2013. Philanthropy in 2013 made a comeback in large donations with the nation’s wealthiest donors giving more than $3.4 billion to charity.

KANSAS CITY — Nonprofit fundraisers, like retailers, hold their breath in late December, waiting for the important end-of-year receipts.

As 2013 closed, many charities were optimistic — more than they’ve been since 2008, when the stock market crashed, withered the portfolios of foundations and individuals, and crimped corporate giving.

Fund developers and nonprofit leaders say the quest for contributions remains challenging and competitive. But finally, good hearts and good financial planning are combining to create what appears to be an improved year for philanthropy.

Nationally, giving is likely to be up 12.5 percent over 2012, according to Atlas of Giving, a company that mines data to measure and forecast the numbers. That’s nearly double the increase from 2011 to 2012 and translates to about $415 billion in contributions.

“There is a lot less anxiety about the economy,” Kathryn Harvel, director of philanthropic giving at Children’s Mercy Hospitals, said about donors this year.

“It feels like people are more comfortable with their giving levels,” agreed Patrick Sallee, chief development officer at the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City. “It feels more active than previous years.”

Give credit to stock market strength. The S&P 500 grew 29 percent in 2013, and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 24 percent. Investment portfolios, starved after the crash, have plumped up like Thanksgiving turkeys.

That means more people had more taxable income and a bigger incentive to give stock or money to nonprofits, rather than face higher tax rates on long-term capital gains and other investment income.

The federal government says charitable deductions are claimed on more than one-third of tax returns, and nearly 2 million registered nonprofits are potential recipients of those deductible gifts.