Americans in charitable mood, as donations went up in 2013

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

J. Roger Glunt donated more than $100,000 of his own money, made hundreds of phone calls and wrote hundreds of letters to get money from others to endow a $1.5 million chair at the University of Pittsburgh.

The money will pay for a nurse who studies cancer care. He did it in memory of his sister, Nancy Glunt Hoffman, who died of cancer in 2001.

“When you start at the bottom of the mountain and there's $1.5 million to get to the top, it's kind of daunting and overwhelming,” said Glunt, 75, of Churchill.

Glunt succeeded and helped Pitt raise a combined $128 million in cash from donors last year. Buoyed by robust gains in the stock market, giving to nonprofits across the United States rose as high as 13 percent last year, according to a report from the Atlas of Giving, a Dallas trade group.

“Our initial forecast for 2014 is that giving will grow about 4 percent. It will be at a less exuberant clip than it was in 2013,” said Rob Mitchell, CEO of the Atlas of Giving, citing the recent downturn in the stock market.

Charitable giving rose from $368.8 billion in 2012 to $416.6 billion in 2013 — the first time the total eclipsed $400 billion, according to the group. In Pennsylvania, giving rose by 15.9 percent last year and is expected to rise 3.9 percent this year.

Another report, the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report released on Tuesday, showed smaller gains. It said that giving last year rose 4.9 percent over 2012, a figure it based on a study of 4,129 nonprofit groups. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofit groups in the country. Atlas of Giving analyzes dozens of economic and other indicators known to influence giving to compile its reports.

Sectors that enjoyed the biggest increases were human and disaster services, up 19.1 percent over 2012; nature and the environment, up 18.5 percent; and education, up 16.2 percent, the group said.

“College graduates have very low unemployment,” Mitchell explained. “When the market is up, they're feeling good about supporting their alma mater.”

Glunt is one such loyal alumnus. He played trumpet in Pitt's marching band, received a bachelor's degree in business and is an emeritus trustee.

In contrast, giving to churches and religious groups rose 8.8 percent — below the national average. Those groups, Mitchell said, are susceptible to high unemployment because they rely on small gifts from many donors.

That tends to be the case with chapters of the United Way, which run workforce campaigns.

United Way of Westmoreland County set an ambitious goal of raising $4.3 million in its 2013 campaign, 6.5 percent more than last year. Bobbi Watt Geer, president and CEO of that chapter, expects to raise as much as last year or up to 2 percent more.

“When we have uncertainty in the market or layoffs, that does impact our results,” she said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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