Met Opera Donations Rose, Gifts to Goldman Charity Fell in 2010

Lincoln Center
The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York. The U.S.'s largest performing arts center saw its private support dip 42.4 percent to $46.3 million in 2010 from $80.5 million. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

New York’s Metropolitan Opera saw private donations recover in the recession’s wake last year, rising 21.7 percent to about $127 million, according to a survey released today.

The Miami-based New World Symphony, which is pursuing a $200 million capital campaign to expand its campus, had the largest percentage increase in private gifts last year. Donations rose to $52.1 million from about $6.2 million in 2009, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Yet the U.S. economy still struggled long after the recession’s official end in mid-2009, and compared to the Met, many of the 400 largest U.S.-based nonprofits surveyed by the Chronicle felt the squeeze. In 2010, the same group saw private gifts rise by a median 3.5 percent after a record 11 percent decline in 2009.

“The fundraising environment is still really tough,” said Chronicle editor Stacy Palmer by phone. “There are pockets of the economy that are brighter than others, but most charities are finding that it’s extraordinarily difficult to raise money.”

Donations to Goldman Sachs Gives, the charitable fund started by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in 2007, dropped 36.4 percent to $123.2 million last year. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art saw a 5.3 percent drop in private funding to about $131 million.

Arts nonprofits that saw steep declines in private giving include the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with a 42.4 percent drop to $46.4 million, the New York Public Library down 6.6 percent to $70.3 million, and the Art Institute of Chicago, with a 32.5 percent plunge from about $58.5 million last year.

Humane Society

Gifts to the Humane Society of the U.S. rose 35.2 percent to $131.2 million last year, while the World Wildlife Fund climbed 9.9 percent to $124.5 million. The Memphis-based Ducks Unlimited, which works to protect the habitats of wildlife, saw private funding decline by 33 percent to $98.7 million last year.

“Nonprofits are going to have to try different fundraising techniques and not rely on one,” Palmer said. “A lot of groups are thinking already that it’s going to take years before the economy recovers and their fundraising recovers along with it.”

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