Video: Fox News – Charitable Donations



WASHINGTON – Charitable donations are at an all-time low, according to

Their report found private donations to the country’s top 400 charities plunged about $7 billion in 2009.

Charities that FOX 5 spoke to say that this is the “new reality,” so they’re changing their business model to survive.

At Martha’s Table on 14th Street in D.C., the countdown is on to the critical holiday season and donations aren’t as bountiful as in years past.

“The main thing is instability, there’s a lot of uncertainty.” said Martha’s Table CEO Lindsey Buss.

As the story over the last two years goes, donations are down, while demand for food, clothing and educational services has spiked.

One thing the downturn has forced charities to do is change their strategies and get more creative.

“We found other solutions, such as working with farmers, so that not only we’re we bringing in more food, it was healthier food,” Buss explained.

He says they’re also letting professionals know that besides money, their time and expertise in financial, legal, or other administrative services is also a huge help that makes dollars stretch further.

Building new partnerships is a page they’ve taken from one of their partners, First Book.

“If the old philanthropic model worked, the sort of ‘tin cup’ philanthropy notion, these problems would have already been solved,” said First Book Executive Director Chandler Arnold.

First Book makes deals with publishers to buy and sell deeply discounted new books to community groups.

“It’s often first new item they’ve gotten, they live in a world of hand-me-downs. A new book says you’re important, and reading is important,” said Arnold.

He says charities have to work with providers and corporations to figure out the mutual benefit beyond just tax write offs.

“Altruism is a wonderful notion, but we also want to make this powerful for the publishers’ bottom line,” said Chandler. “This is a real business opportunity for them to reach a market segment that they couldn’t reach otherwise.”

Like the families who rely on Martha’s Table, which gives kids in need nourishment for their bodies and minds.

Both First Book and Martha’s Table say it’s important to let donors know how their money is being put to good use.

How charities make it out of the great recession has yet to be written. Buss does see a positive turn.

“We’ve seen the average gift go down, but we’ve also seen more people giving,” he said.

And that’s something to build on.