Financial services firms and their well-paid executives have historically been generous givers to museums, colleges, hospitals and social service organizations, both in New York and around the globe. Now, nonprofit administrators are watching the crisis on Wall Street with queasy stomachs as reliable donors like Lehman Brothers, American International Group, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns change hands or go belly up.
It may be months before charities learn whether pledges are being honored. Troubled firms may slash corporate giving while they focus on their own problems. Wealthy individuals may scale back as well as their stock portfolios lose value and their pay bonuses vanish.
And with tens of thousands of layoffs expected, local income tax revenues are expected to slide, meaning there will be less government money for social service organizations, even as the number of needy people rises.
The Center on Philanthropy said that in 2007, out 74.8 percent of the total came from individuals; 7.6 percent were from bequests; 12.6 percent was from foundations and 5.1 percent from corporations. The Giving USA Foundation released a report last week noting that the drop-off in overall charitable donations by Americans during economic slowdowns is generally mild.