In Uncertain Times, Donors Hold Back
Feb. 26, 2009, The New York Times — Charitably inclined people are anxious. Charities, like businesses and families, have suffered in the economic maelstrom, while their services are needed more than ever. But donors fear they can no longer afford to give as much as they once did.
There is a “psychology of conserving assets at present,” said Richard Kohan, a partner in the private client services group of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston. That, he said, is creating internal conflict for many wealthy people with “a heartfelt, sincere desire to give back to the community.”
The need is certainly there. William G. Droms, professor of finance at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said, as an example, that requests for food and rent assistance at Catholic Charities of Northern Virginia were running at two to three times the normal level as more people lose their jobs and homes.
Mr. Kohan, Professor Droms and other experts on charitable giving discussed ways donors might give in tough times without putting themselves in financial peril, should the economy and financial markets continue their fall.
For example, Mr. Kohan said, an organization asked a supporter for a multiyear pledge for a capital project. The man felt it might not be possible for him to keep the pledge. But there can be a middle ground, Mr. Kohan said. “We’re coming off a period of yes, yes, yes. It doesn’t have to be no, no, no.”
Mr. Kohan suggested that the man tell the charity he would give a certain amount of money but could not promise it. He would make a “down payment” on the total this year and reassess the matter next year. There are other ways to give, Mr. Kohan said. People can donate professional services. Supporters can also help by finding more people among friends and associates who are willing to become donors.