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Charitable donations down

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Charitable donations are at an all time low this giving season. That's according to the Philanthropic Giving Index (PGI) released this week by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

The PGI's three indexes for measuring consumer willingness to donate - overall PGI, Present Situation Index and Expectations Index — rose in the last six months. However, numbers still remain at historic lows.

The overall PGI was 71.1, an increase of 8.7 percent since summer 2009, and the Present Situation Index was 62.5, up 7.7 percent from six months ago. The Expectations Index, at 79.8, increased 9.6 percent from six months ago. Fundraisers reported large declines in success rates with corporate gifts, foundation grants and special events.

A poll showed 77 percent of fundraisers believe the economy is having a negative or very negative impact on gift giving. Would be donators are worried about the economic climate, but the rise in PGI numbers could show that charitable donations will start to rise in the near future. Charitable organizations are remaining cautious and optimistic. Religious and educational charities are holding on to more optimism then organizations that focus on human services.

Fundraisers were asked about new initiatives that increased revenue in 2009. Not surprisingly, tough budget decisions and good contact with donors yielded more donations. Preserving current donors proved to be the highest priority for non-profits followed by cultivating new donors and reengaging lapsed donors. Unfortunately, 40 percent saw a fall in repeat donors.

"Both this finding and the positive results of nonprofits' new initiatives emphasize the importance of nonprofits responding in ways that donors say are most important to them. These include better stewardship and more frequent communication... as well as making choices that result in greater organizational efficiency and impact. These best practices are especially important in difficult times," said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy in a press release about the PGI.

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