is the response of charitable organizations to the storm behind a slowdown in charitable giving?

While many people have speculated that a rash of disasters has led to a “donor fatigue,” which is leading to a slowdown in contributions to charitable organizations, a new report by Paul Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, suggests that there be more at play.

In October, only 13 percent of Americans say they had a great deal of confidence in charitable organizations, down two percentage points from a similar poll conducted in July 2005. Furthermore, people expressing a great deal of confidence in the Red Cross dropped from 43 percent to 38 percent over the same period (though that number rose for the United Way, from 16 percent to 20 percent).

The primary factor in generating confidence, Light says, is how good an organization is at spending its money wisely. “Simply put,” Light writes, “charities should put their energies first and foremost into efforts to reassure donors, volunteers, and the public that they spend money wisely and deliver programs and services effectively.”

Light’s survey also shows that only 13 percent of Americans say that charitable organizations do a very good job spending money wisely, while 47 percent say that the leaders of charities are paid too much, and 67 percent say that charities waste a great deal or a fair amount of money. According to the survey, confidence in charitable organizations now stands just above television news, organized labor, and law firms, and well behind the military, small businesses, colleges and universities, and organized religion.

The full report is available online at:

Established in 1938, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service offers advanced programs leading to the professional degrees of Master of Public Administration, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Management, and Doctor of Philosophy. Through these rigorous programs, NYU Wagner educates the future leaders of public, nonprofit, and health institutions as well as private organizations serving the public sector.

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