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Top 400 charities see billions less in donations

WASHINGTON — A new ranking of the nation’s 400 biggest charities shows donations dropped by 11 percent overall last year as the Great Recession ended – the worst decline in 20 years since the Chronicle of Philanthropy began keeping a tally.

The Philanthropy 400 report to be released Monday shows such familiar names as the United Way and the Salvation Army, both based near Washington, continue to dominate the ranking, despite the 2009 declines. The survey accounts for $68.6 billion in charitable contributions.

An earlier report by the Giving USA Foundation found overall charitable giving declined 3.6 percent last year. That report included giving to private foundations and to smaller charities, while the Chronicle’s survey only includes top charities raising money from the public.

“It shows that charities are really having a tough time, and this is some of the most successful charities in the United States,” Chronicle Editor Stacy Palmer said. “Usually bigger charities are more resilient, so that’s the part that is still surprising.”

The top charities may have taken such a hit as giving shifted to smaller, local groups and because people gave less money to arts and cultural groups, Palmer said. Plus, even though the recession has officially ended, unemployment remains high at nearly 10 percent nationally and the economy continues to sputter.

The Salvation Army, based in Alexandria, Va., maintained its No. 2 ranking after the United Way, with $1.7 billion in contributions, despite a decline of 8.4 percent.

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