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October 26, 2021
Stronger Giving and Innovation May Spur More Nonprofit Growth
Bulb and dollars

September 5, 2021 — Increased individual charitable giving spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and innovative responses to the crisis by nonprofits may portend continued strengthening of the sector, optimism recently echoed by several central Massachusetts nonprofit leaders.

According to Vanguard Charitable, a leading provider of philanthropic support through donor-advised funds (DAFs), recently reported its third consecutive year of record granting for the year ending June 30, noting that donors granted $1.7 billion to more than 50,000 charities, 9% more in giving compared to the previous year. In addition,

  • Schwab Charitable, another major DAF provider, saw total giving increase for the year ending June 30, to $3.7 billion, up 13% over the previous year.

  • Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s largest grant maker, primarily via DAFs, this summer reported a 24% increase in donor-recommended grants last year, compared to 2019

“On the heels of a record giving year in 2020, donors continued to step up to provide much-needed support to a diverse group of nonprofit organizations," said Jane Greenfield, president of Vanguard Charitable. "We are inspired to see another year of generous giving, especially as we're acutely aware that the coming years will bring continued challenges requiring consistent philanthropic support."

Among the immediate challenges that nonprofit face are potential dips in giving due to dropping consumer confidence, which is largely related to the surge in Delta variant infections. In August, the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index dropped 13.4 percentage points, to 70.3 out of 100, a drop exceeded only six times in the 70-year history of the index.

Last week’s national jobs report was disappointing, with 235,000 jobs gained, well below 962,000 jobs gained in June and 1.05 million in July, which, according to The New York Times, marked one of the weakest months for hiring since the recovery began more than a year ago.

Despite these developments, several nonprofit leaders in Worcester recently expressed optimism at a webinar hosted by the Worcester Business Journal (WBJ) that lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic will stand them in good stead going forward.

According to WBJ, “While the pandemic was often described as a ‘nightmare,’ panelists agreed that teaming up with fellow nonprofits, recognizing the benefits of virtual programs, and listening to the needs of their communities were all key takeaways that have made their nonprofits stronger.”

Deborah Hall, executive director of YWCA Central Massachusetts, participating in a webinar on nonprofit innovation during the COVID-19 crisis, said “the pandemic led the YWCA to be more innovative in supporting its core mission, providing emergency childcare for healthcare workers, setting up equity vaccine clinics, and using tele-advocacy to reach domestic violence survivors during lockdowns,” WBJ reported.

Steve Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, said, “I feel like people feel more connected now, which is bizarre since we were so separated in more ways than we were, but there is this connective tissue that all of us in our communities have now that we did not have pre-pandemic.”

Ron Waddell, executive director and co-founder of Legendary Legacies, was reported noting that a new job training program for at-risk young “allowed us to compensate them and bring them into spaces where they were not typically seen as liabilities, but now seen as assets to the community.”

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