Holidays Not So Happy for Many Charities

By Donna Gordon Blankinship, Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE (AP) — American charities have weathered a significant drop in giving this year, and while they're hoping for a holiday miracle, a recent survey shows they will probably see a decrease in year-end generosity.

In light of the economic downturn, only 38% of Americans say they are more likely to give a charitable gift as a holiday present this year, compared to 49% last year, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive..

Some of the biggest U.S. charities say they are budgeting for a disappointing Christmas.

The survey commissioned by Wash.-based World Vision indicates they are prudent to not raise their expectations for now.

The survey did find, however, that 74% of Americans plan to increase their charitable giving once the economy improves.

The nation's most successful fundraising organizations expected to see their income decline by an average of 9% in 2009, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Harris Interactive contacted 1,001 U.S. adults in a random telephone survey, and claims a 95% "confidence level."

About the same number of Americans are giving to charity these days, but they are giving fewer dollars, said Justin Greeves, senior vice president of Harris Interactive, which regularly polls Americans about their charitable giving.

Times are doubly tough this year for many nonprofits because the need for their services is increasing at the same time donations are decreasing, but Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association, said her organization is doing its best to cut expenses not services.

"I say this to our staff all the time: 'Our mission is not in a recession'," said Brown. The Dallas-based nonprofit ended its fiscal year on June 30 with donations down about 11.8%, and a staff cut of 371 people or about 10% of its work force.

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