For the past few years, Carl Anglesea gave about $400 each year to charity. But he lost his job as a software developer in August, and since then Anglesea, 54, of Chuluota, Fla., hasn’t given a dime. What he has done, though, is triple his hours as a volunteer AARP tax counselor helping people fill out tax forms. “I’d like to give cash, but I can’t,” he says. “So I’m committing to more hours as a substitute.”
This is a trade that works well for Anglesea and many like him. After all, time is money, and community-minded individuals may be happy to give whichever of the two they are better able to spare. But the time-money swap, which is washing over the charity world like a tidal wave during this recession, poses stiff challenges for nonprofits. They can’t pay the rent with volunteer hours. One in two nonprofits says its funding has fallen, according to “The Quiet Crisis,” a new report by Civic Enterprises, a social-issues think tank. When the economy was this rotten in the early 1970s, charitable giving fell more than 9%, adjusted for inflation. Experts believe something like that will occur in this recession too.
The projected budget shortfalls come at a time when nonprofits’ services are most in demand. Last year the United Way saw a 68% increase nationally in the number of calls for basic needs, according to “The Quiet Crisis.” The state of Arizona reported a doubling in the number of people who sought social services last year, and 70% of the nonprofits in Michigan reported an increased demand for services.