The economy is down, and so is giving.
Unfortunately, it is exactly at these times when donations to charities are needed the most.
It was reported this week that donations to the nation's biggest charities dropped 11 percent last year. That's the most dramatic decline in the 20 years since The Chronicle of Philanthropy began tracking giving.
The 400 charities in the survey raised $68.6 billion in 2009. The 11 percent drop in giving was dramatically more than the previous largest annual decrease of 2.8 percent in 2001.
The largest charitable organization, United Way, saw a giving decline 8.4 percent nationally. Locally, United Way of Walla Walla County saw decline in giving of 6.1 percent from 2008 to 2009.
The relative strength of the local United Way isn't surprising considering how effective it is at distributing the funds collected.
United Way supports 16 different local agencies and organizations. Almost all of the funds collected stay in this community. A local board oversees the contributions and makes sure that 99 cents out of every dollar stays here.
This year's goal for the United Way campaign, which kicked off this fall, is $420,000. That goal is attainable given this community's strong support for United Way and the agencies it supports. Last year the local United Way took in $417,165.
Among the local agencies that receive United Way funds is Helpline, which provides food, shelter and funds for utilities to those going through difficult times. Although the Great Recession is officially over according to economists, its impact continue to linger in this community. Families are hurting financially.
And until the Valley's economy begins to get better Helpline and other agencies - such as the Blue Mountain Action Council, The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross - that provide basic needs will be flooded with requests for help.
The local United Way also provides support for organizations that help make this community stronger. Camp Fire USA, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, the YMCA, the YWCA, Friends of Children of Walla Walla and more all count on United Way funds so they can continue to offer programs that benefit kids and families.
United Way and other solid charities need your support during these tough economic times. Give generously.
Publisher Rob Blethen is a board member of the United Way of Walla Walla County and the local YMCA, Editorial Page Rick Eskil is a member of the Friends of Children of Walla Walla Board and Human Resources Manager Lacey Town is on the local American Red Cross Board. All are members of the U-B Editorial Board.