"The last thing you want to do is hunker down and stay away from donors," says John Griswold, executive director of the Commonfund Institute. "Cultivation work should be maintained," Griswold says.

Eileen Heisman, CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust, and independent public charity that manages more than $725 million in charitable assets, urges fundraisers to resist complacency, as well. "Don't stop planning for the future. Don't get paralyzed," says Heisman. "The worst thing a development officer can do now is nothing."

"Pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy", observes Jay Nussel, executive director of development at Manchester College in Indiana. "If you expect results to go down, maybe you don't ask for as much money or you don't do as many asks and your fundraising results go down," he says.

United Way of King County, Wash., which is one of the most successful United Ways in the nation, expects to reach this year's fundraising goal of $110 million. Volunteers say people seem insecure about the future, but they are also concerned about others and want to help, spokesman Jared Erlandson said

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University says that historically, charitable giving has been recession-proof. Contributions to American charities have increased during 39 of the past 40 years in today's dollars, and a change in the tax laws – not the stock market crash – can be blamed for the drop in 1987, said Melissa Brown, Associate Director of Research for the Center. "Between 69 and 72 percent of people give routinely," she said. Brown said the stock market has a relatively small impact on charitable giving nationally. "In 2002, when the stock market was down, 70 percent of the population still gave an average of $2,000," she said.

Federal Way, Wash.-based World Vision indicates that 2008 could actually be a better-than-usual Christmas for the nation's charitable organizations. The telephone survey, conducted in late October by Harris Interactive, found that seven in 10 adults plan to spend less money on holiday presents this year, but about half say they are more likely to give a charitable gift than a traditional present such as clothing or an electronic toy.

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