Donors and charities practice modesty

Sarah Steimer

Nonprofit organizations and donors alike are finding new ways to make fundraising a more humble process during the recession.

“People are more cautious of what they’re spending money on,” said Patricia Lehnhart, executive director of Children’s Concert Society in Akron, a non-profit organization that encourages children to appreciate music.

The number of donations made in 2008 fell by 5.7 percent, the sharpest drop in 53 years, according to the Giving USA Foundation, which publishes trends on charitable giving. The number of anonymous donations of $1 million or more in 2008, however, rose 1.1 percent since 2000, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found.

“I have seen some anonymous donations recently,” said Margaret Lazzerini, fundraising consultant and president of Margaret Lazzerini Consulting, adding some donors don’t wish to be found by other organizations.

“People don’t want to look ostentatious,” she said. “People don’t want to let people know how much money they have. It’s about humility, really.”

Organizations seeking funds are also doing their part to be humble.

Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County has a yearly summer golf outing fundraiser where donors are given various gifts. Program manager Andrea Neidert said this year the foundation didn’t provide as many gifts.

“We cut the expenses so more of the money would come (to the organization),” Neidert said. Many donors who attend the golf outing have even suggested not to bother with gifts at all, she said.

Lazzerini said a number of organizations are trying to keep a lower profile this year. Some are replacing annual black tie events with more casual events while others are simply spending less on the invitations. She said a few organizations are even avoiding functions in general and simply asking for a donation.

“(Organizations) don’t want to appear that they’re wasting the money,” she said.

Lehnhart said the money organizations have come to expect from various foundations isn’t necessarily available this year.

The Children’s Concert Society will be holding two fundraising events this year instead of the usual one, but Lehnhart noted the organization is very aware and being careful with the costs.

“There’s now a need to keep things from looking ‘extra,'” Lazzerini said.

Contact public affairs reporter Sarah Steimer at [email protected].

For those who are able to give this year either a little or a lot:

IRS tax information for and on charities and other nonprofits:

The Better Business Bureau lets you search the name of a charity to find if it has been meeting set standards: