Friday, November 7, 2014

"New Donor Generation Stimulates U.S. Giving"

... Sayeth the The New York Times today, November 7th.

This meaningless headline tops a two-column story asserting that "charitable giving is back in a big way." But is it? Yes it has improved since the recession. Those years hit the sector hard and there has been a modest recovery. And for that we should be grateful because no profits, especially those in the human services field, need every cent they can generate, particularly operating funds.

I don't  know what "new donor generation" they're talking about. Zuckerberg's $25 million gift to the CDC to "fight" Ebola is certainly significant especially because the US charitable response to Ebola has been dismal; the big relief agencies have been mum. Only Doctors Without Borders has been a consistent voice.

As a percentage of GDP giving remains locked at around plus or minus 2%; that hasn't changed for as  long as records have been kept. And the slowest part of the charitable sector to recover has been individual giving, described  by the Times as "the biggest drag." Many people think that foundations and corporations are hugely account for most of the $335 billion donated last year. But in fact the greatest percentage of giving is from living individuals. Internet giving is marginal; social media's impact on giving has been modest at best.

We are certainly  in a better place than we were a few years ago. Between now and year end charity will generate around 30-40% of its total annual giving revenue. We will know within a few months whether US charitable giving is inching up or really rebounding.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why I Won't Visit The World Trade Center "Memorial"

From SoHo World Trade Center 9-11-14
On September 11, 2014, walking home from dinner I turned right  onto Wooster St. in the heart of SoHo. The new World Trade Center marked the sad occasion with the vaporous blue twin beams.

Ground Zero is about a mile away as the crow flies. SoHo is arguably one of  the world's largest unroofed high end, retail malls. Befuddled tourists, street vendors purveying everything from junk and knockoffs, to really fancy stuff, and of course we locals crowd the narrow streets by day. But at night Wooster Street stretching north-south from Canal to Houston, is quiet. Parking spaces abound.

Friends come to visit, shop and sometimes, flop. Like everyone else from out  of town, WTC is almost always number  one on their bucket list. But not for me. Staying away is for me not about avoiding the reminder that for six months after 9-11, we were still  picking soot from the cats' fur and still finding dust patches in neglected corners. Or that on the evening  of 9-11 everything south of Houston was a military encampment because no one knew what might come next.

What my boycott is about is the commercialization of WTC, especially the Memorial Museum that in the name of 9-11 hawks key fobs, coffee mugs,  emblazoned hoodies, phony cop and firefighter gear and other mindless tchotchkes. Tasteless, crude and not a symbol of tragedy but an ensign of the politicization, political wrangling- and so sadly the divided survivor lobby. After 13 years the raw wound gives way to a maybe well intended  but hopelessly inept attempt to memorialize.

No one consulted me professionally. But had they I would have counseled against anything but the simplest, commercial free representation possible. Maybe a museum; maybe not. But making a grand souvenir stand out of 3,000 dead is sacrilegious. 

And I'm a non-believer.