U.S. charities resisting recession, but hardships ahead

Thu Feb 5, 2009 5:10pm EST
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By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks are languishing, jobs are vanishing and experts predict the U.S. recession will grind on for months, but Mark Tuohey figures now would be the worst time to cut back on charitable giving.

"It just means you have to dig a little deeper," said Tuohey, a litigator at the Washington law firm Vinson & Elkins, who said he donates nearly 10 percent of his income to an array of charities.

Charitable giving by wealthy individuals and endowed foundations in the United States has proven resilient during the economic crisis, with some foundations increasing donations in response.

Experts fear a drop-off in 2010 because philanthropy is something of a lagging indicator. Many corporations donate to the arts, education and social services based on a three-year average of profits.

"I hear from (wealthy) people that they've got a tough situation this year," Tuohey said. "My reaction is, 'You can afford to lose some.' Think about the less fortunate, the people who have tough situations every year."

Since the heavy economic turbulence of September and October, nearly 50 grant-makers -- primarily endowed foundations and corporations -- have pledged more than $100 million in response to the crisis, according to the Foundation Center, which collects grant data from about 1,000 charitable foundations.

More than half of that has been dedicated to housing issues, such as preventing home foreclosures, with much of the rest going to food banks, services for the homeless and financial counseling.

MODEST REDUCTION IN 2009   Continued...