Giving down in 1st quarter

Charitable giving declined in the first quarter of this year, according to a bellwether study by a consulting firm for nonprofit agencies.

It's the first decline since 2005, when charities collected record donations after the tsunami and hurricanes. It came as no surprise; charitable contributions generally track economic conditions.

Donor numbers fell by 4 percent and revenue by 1.8 percent compared with the first quarter of last year, according to the study by Target Analytics.

“Like many stocks on a Wall Street trading day, there's just more that went down than went up this quarter,” said John Mastrobattista, the company's vice president of marketing.

A broader study by the Giving USA Foundation reported an increase in charitable giving of 1 percent last year.

Target Analytics' Index of National Fundraising Performance found that while revenue per donor increased by 2.1 percent so far this year, that wasn't enough to offset declines in donor numbers and overall revenue.

“It's perhaps not unexpected that Americans in general are being more careful about their discretionary spending,” Mastrobattista said.

Target Analytics looked at 72 nonprofits with more than 36 million donors. They made donations totaling $1.8 billion in the first quarter of 2008.

The study divided nonprofits into seven categories: animal welfare, environmental, health, human services, international relief, societal benefit and miscellaneous.