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Non-profits here seek to buck national trend

Rochester Business Journal
March 1, 2013

Charitable giving is expected to slow nationwide this year, but Rochester-area non-profits have a much more optimistic outlook.
A forecast from the national organization Atlas of Giving predicts giving will increase 1.6 percent in 2013. That compares with a 6.7 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.
The Dallas-based Atlas of Giving also makes predictions for all states, with most showing growth of 2 percent to 2.5 percent. Charitable giving in New York is expected to remain largely flat, however, with a predicted increase of 0.1 percent.
Predictions in New York for the first half are somewhat better-an increase by 1.8 percent over the next three months and 1.2 percent in the next six months.
Dawn Borgeest sees more reason for optimism in the Rochester area. After years of stunted fundraising as the effects of the recession wore on donors, the senior vice president and chief corporate affairs officer for the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. said giving is on the upswing again.
"For our community, the glass is very much half full," Borgeest said. "Our area is continuing the economic transition, and I think we're on the other side of that."
Part of the reason Rochester stands apart from the rest of the nation and even other parts of the state is its history of giving, Borgeest said. Charitable giving in the region has always tended to exceed that in other areas, dating back to the example set by George Eastman.
The Salvation Army of Greater Rochester has noted an upswing as well. Its 2012 Red Kettle Campaign, the organization's main fundraising event, surpassed its goal of $560,000, raising $597,014. It was the first time the organization had reached its goal since 2005.
"Things have definitely gone up since the recession, and every year since then has been better," said Lynn Mulvey, director of development at the Salvation Army. "We're not yet back to the level we were in the glory years, but it's not that far away."
Mulvey also sees a positive sign in the number of organization locally succeeding in their fundraising events.
"We have a golf tournament, and it's amazing when you look in the summer and see all the golf tournaments that are out there and doing well," she said.
Total giving nationwide in 2012 amounted to $369.2 billion, the Atlas of Giving found. In December, which is considered the busiest month as many donors time their gifts for tax-related purposes, nationwide giving was $31.3 billion.
The forecast for 2013 nationwide is $375.1 billion, with donations expected to shift slightly. While religion is expected to remain the largest giving sector, making up 35 percent of all donations, other areas are expected to grow. The study predicted that giving to charities working with nature and the environment will increase nearly 6 percent.
Giving to human and disaster services is expected to increase 4.9 percent, while giving to the arts will rise 2.7 percent, the study predicted.
The Atlas of Giving noted changes in donation patterns. Foundation gifts are expected to increase nearly 5 percent in 2013, while corporate gifts are expected to fall by 0.3 percent from last year. Individual giving-which amounted to $277 billion in 2012 and is expected to rise to $280 billion in 2013-will continue to make up 75 percent of all donations.
The change in corporate giving has put pressure on the community to make up the difference, said Hollis Budd, executive director at the Farash Foundation.
Borgeest said she has seen changes in donor patterns locally. Donors are no longer likely to give to an organization simply because they agree with its mission or have a history of donations, she said. Now they want to see results.
"There have always been donors who want to see how they're making a difference, but that's grown much more in importance in recent years," Borgeest said. "If they're giving to an after-school program, they want to know exactly how much better kids in the program are performing from one year to the next."
Mulvey agrees, saying donors are holding charities more accountable.
"They want to know that if they give money to a charity, they will be good stewards of their funds," Mulvey said.
That change has led organizations such as the United Way to place a greater emphasis on tracking results and relaying them to donors. The United Way instituted Blueprints for Change, narrowing the giving focus to the areas of greatest need and identifying programs within those areas that are the most efficient.
These blueprints are updated and data is available for donors to make more informed giving choices, Borgeest said.
Donors also want more flexibility, she said. They want options for how and when they give, which has led in part to a rise in Web-based giving formats.
As their own funding has been restricted, donors are looking for other ways to support charities, Budd noted.
"Rochester really rolls up its sleeves and gets involved with the charities it supports," Budd said. "We're seeing that people don't just want to give money; they want to partner more and really get involved with these organizations."

3/1/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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