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Despite challenges, nonprofits see rise in giving

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Nonprofits received continued support from Delawareans as 2020’s tide of charitable donations bled into 2021.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, charitable giving peaked in Delaware, reflecting growth in the United States more broadly.

Charities in the U.S. received a record $471 billion in donations in 2020, according to Giving USA. This number reflects an increase from the previous year’s donation total of approximately $449 billion.

This growth trend was mirrored at the state level, with charitable giving skyrocketing in Delaware between 2019 and 2020. 

One organization touched by this trend was the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF), which cultivates philanthropy in Delaware through partnerships with fundholders and donors. The foundation works with nonprofits, providing grants, scholarships, and additional support to charitable causes across the state.

Between March 2020 and May 2022, the Delaware Community Foundation aided nonprofits like Love, Inc. as they worked on projects funded by the COVID-19 Strategic Response Fund. | COURTESY OF DCF

DCF touted a 35% increase in giving between 2019 and 2020. The pandemic, favorable stock market conditions, and CARES Act tax incentives were motivating factors for contributors, President and CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay said.

The uptick in charitable giving has not slowed down since, with giving growing by 9% in the United States in 2021, according to the Blackbaud Institute’s 2021 Charitable Giving Report. 

The report also found that environmental and arts-related nonprofits experienced the most dramatic growth last year — 19.3% and 15.2% increases respectively.

Even in a post-pandemic world, Americans are retaining an increased interest in contributing to their local communities — and that includes Delawareans. 

“At the highest level…2021 was a good year. Money was coming in and things were positive,” Comstock-Gay told Delaware Business Times. “At the same time, nonprofits were saying, ‘OK, there may well be storm clouds on the horizon.’”

Despite continued increases, nonprofits are concerned about what will happen once the pandemic-related influx of funds comes to a halt. They are focused on tackling inflation and competing for employees, according to Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement President and CEO Sheila Bravo. 

Finding volunteers and organizing events in a post-COVID world will also be important to Delaware’s nonprofits.

“[During COVID] events largely fell off the map — and events aren’t the end all, be all — but they were an important piece. Organizations are … struggling a bit with how to create events that bring in money,” Comstock-Gay said.

Difficulty bringing back the momentum of in-person events, paired with an inability to compete for employees and attract volunteers, are challenges Delaware’s nonprofits will face head-on as 2022 stretches on and charitable giving trends return to pre-pandemic norms.

Regardless of what the future brings, Delawarean nonprofits put their best feet forward in 2020 and 2021, and it shows.

“My counterparts across the country are seeing nonprofits close or merge. We’re not seeing that in Delaware right now,” Bravo said. “We may find that it’s a testimony to the great work that communities supporting nonprofits did during [the pandemic].”

By Emma Reilly

Delaware Business Times

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