NPR Highlights Charitable Giving During Downturn

     Logic might suggest that during economic hardship, charity would be one of the first casualties. But according to National Public Radio (NPR) that isn’t necessarily the case.

     NPR’s Oct. 13 “News & Notes” broadcast found two charity experts who said the economic downturn has caused people to refocus their areas of giving. George Ruotolo, chairman and CEO of Ruotolo Associates Inc., an organization that advises charities, explained that giving may be slightly lower, but is focused on areas where it is most needed.

    “But actually, in the area of human services, for one, and another one is international affairs – giving actually did better than the other sub-sectors during this period of time [slow economies],” Ruotolo said to NPR’s Farai Chideya. “One of the factors with international giving would be disasters and certainly human services – the need is more prevalent when you have a recession and I think people might direct their philanthropy – people, corporations, foundations – might be directing their philanthropy more towards what they see as a real serious systemic need in the society at that point.”

     According to Ruotolo, people are giving to areas where there is more of a need – toward meeting the poor’s basic needs.

     “You know, we like to talk about the need versus the want,” Ruotolo said. “And when you think about the arts and in some cases even education – those are wants as opposed to feeding people and allowing people a place to live and for people who are homeless. So, I think people become more focused on the actual need during these recessionary periods.”

     The other charity expert, Jeremy Schlittenhart, spokesman for a Goodwill store chain in Southern California, explainedthat with less money to spend, people are making use of stores with second-hand goods and that benefits charities.

     “Well, I think with the economy the way it is now, people are kind of turning their eye towards Goodwill and retailers such as us,” Schlittenhart explained. “And saying – you know, how can I get more bang for my buck? How can I stretch my dollar? Their perception’s changing. They’re coming into our stores, they’re shopping. They’re saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize, you know, this stuff I could find here.’”