June 9, 2010; Source: Wall Street Journal | Nonprofits looking for a silver lining in the economic clouds will have to keep waiting a little longer—maybe even a few years more. Giving USA reported on Wednesday that charitable giving declined in 2009 by 3.6 percent to $303.75 billion. This was the second drop in as many years. See our take on the report.

Nancy Raybin, chair of the Giving Institute, the consulting arm of the Giving USA Foundation, says she expects giving to be down or flat for at least the next couple of years, and hopefully rebounding after that. Raybin attributes the drop to anxieties American’s feel in the wake of continued economic uncertainty. “It’s been a difficult year employment-wise for people who have lost their jobs to give, but we think others have stepped up their support to partly fill the gaps,” she said.

While giving was down across the board, the Wall Street Journal noted that religious institutions, which usually do the best, had their first recorded decline since 1969. Similarly, other usually favored sectors saw giving shrink last year. For instance, education was down 3.6 percent, followed by arts, culture and humanities, which had a 2.4 percent drop. Two categories that saw modest rises as a percentage of total giving were human services (up 2.3 percent) and health organizations (3.8 percent).

Commenting on the way donors give during periods of economic uncertainty, Claire Costello, national foundation executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Philanthropic Management, said, “In a time of deep recessionary cutbacks, people tend to see the capital campaigns and endowment funds at universities and religious institutions as discretionary compared to basic needs like soup kitchens.”— Bruce Trachtenberg