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The Changing Role of Charities

Bad News Continues to Pound Poverty-Stricken Americans:

  • 500,000 legal immigrants are expected to lose welfare benefits

  • 180,000 poor children will be denied disability benefits

  • The number of nights spent in Catholic-operated shelters increased 35% last year

  • Able-bodied adults with no dependents who seek jobs but cannot find them are losing their food stamps

  • More than half of those asking for food or shelter at many charities are from the working-poor -- people with low wages who cannot make ends meet.

Funding changes
       Americans are benefiting from a strong economy, including a meteoric rise in the stock market. We are contributing more to nonprofit organizations overall, but giving less to charities that provide desperately needed food, shelter, job training, and other human services for people struggling to stay out of poverty.

       Human service organizations receive $11.7 billion or 8% of total American charitable contributions. This is the only major category of nonprofit organizations to endure reduced public support in 1994 and 1995.

       Since 1993, donations to human service groups have fallen 11.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars. This includes homeless shelters and youth development, vocational training, domestic disaster relief, hunger, senior and woman's programs. Overall, giving has increased 7.4% during the same time period, according to data from the American Association of Fundraising Counsel (AAFRC) Trust for Philanthropy.     

       Federal funding to help the poor is expected to fall $15 billion a year for the next seven years. Even if Americans double their giving to human service programs, which is highly unlikely, it will still not make up for government funding cutbacks. Therefore, it is vital that donors target the most efficient and effective groups.

How to help
       Donors should consider generously supporting those charities that not only help people to overcome a crisis situation but also those charities that help them to obtain vocational and living skills to lead healthy, and productive lives. We can learn from our government's mistakes, being careful to avoid giving to organizations that allow capable individuals to grow dependent on handouts.

       Some donors may want to give more to help the poor because they feel it is the right thing to do. Others, who are less altruistic, may want to bear in mind that desperate people cut off from both government and charity aid may resort to crime, and that is going to make everybody else's life harder.

By Daniel Borochoff, founder and president of the American Institute of Philanthropy - www.charitywatch.org - one of the nation's foremost charity watchdogs. Dan's bio is with Hearts and Minds governing board members.

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http://www.heartsandminds.org/articles/charity.htm - latest text changes April 20, 2006.

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