Giving Likely to Be Up, But Nervousness Persists

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

As we embark on a new year, nonprofit leaders are planning for the next 12 months with both excitement and nervousness. Last week, NPR reported that philanthropy was strong, noting that GivingTuesday was a record day, with more than $168 million given online, up more than 45% from the previous year. Nonprofits were reporting robust year-end giving and that a number of community foundations indicated donors’ willingness to dig deep.

This is all good news for the sector.

However, the psychology behind this extra giving was a mixed bag. According to NPR, a number of donors were giving more because of nervousness about our country’s future, a new administration and potential changes to the tax code. One community foundation noted that a particular donor quadrupled their gift based on a recommendation from their accountant. Other donors were giving to organizations that helped the homeless, provided healthcare and assisted refugees and immigrants because of fears of federal funding cuts in those sub-sectors.

Experts predict that giving for 2016 could well surpass the $373 billion in philanthropy from 2015, possibly by four or even five percent. This is excellent for nonprofits, but organizations have continued anxiety about federal and state funding. We know that philanthropy cannot fill gaps if government ceases or drastically reduces funding for housing, healthcare, human services and other programs.

In Oklahoma, our nonprofits – in the face of great economic challenges both with our energy sector and state budget – remain mostly optimistic. In a recent survey the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits completed, more than half of the respondents said their organizations were having good years for fundraising and were optimistic about the future. However, this is coupled with increased demand for services and trepidation about our state economic health. More than three-quarters of nonprofits reported increased demand in the past year, and half stated they struggled to meet demand for services, leaving people without housing, healthcare and other vital needs.

As our legislators prepare for what could be another incredibly challenging session, the charitable sector continues to be there for our citizens. This year will be another crucial test for how the sector can meet demand. In a few weeks, nonprofit leaders will hear from lawmakers and work with them on ways to partner more efficiently and effectively at our annual Advocacy Forums. We will also continue to educate policy makers about philanthropy, nonprofit services, demand, economic impact and community improvement.

This year will be a challenge, but the charitable sector seems ready to meet it head on. Most importantly, we look forward to working with lawmakers as a sector to improve the lives of every Oklahoman.

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