The charity had fewer donors this year than last but collected about the same amount of money, Andere said.
“It’s uncertainty of the economic climate,” she said. “People don’t know what’s going to happen next year and whether they can give to as many nonprofits as much as they have given before.”
Some charities and large institutions, such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, say they are seeing a rise in large donations beyond the normal year-end flurry, when typically a third of giving occurs.
Many of the largest gifts went to so-called “donor-advised” funds, which allow a donor to set up a charitable account and take an immediate tax benefit, and then decide over time how to distribute the money. Financial institutions such as Schwab and Fidelity, which run such accounts, saw big increases as December waned; contributions to Schwab were up 192 percent this December over last. The Jewish Federations of North America, a group that maintains about $10 billion in donor-advised funds, also saw an increase; one federation in New Jersey had 10 seven-figure funds established just in the past week, it said.
Eileen R. Heisman, chief executive of the National Philanthropic Trust, said that giving to its donor-advised funds increased 40 percent in October, 180 percent in November and 300 percent in December. The Pennsylvania-based trust has assets of $1.4 billion.
“I’ve been in this business 25 years and it’s probably the busiest giving season I’ve seen,” she said. “It’s huge.”
With deal terms changing daily, and then hourly, and no closure from Capitol Hill, many taxpayers were left to muddle it out as best they could on their own.
Katherine Borsecnik, 53, a Chevy Chase resident and former technology and nonprofit executive, said that she sat down over dinner just before Christmas with her husband and two daughters, ages 16 and 19, to decide how much they should give to their small family foundation and how the money should be disbursed. The youngest, Lucie, 16, even made her own PowerPoint presentation to argue for her pet causes.
Because they did not know whether they would still have the same charitable deduction next year that they had in 2012, Borsecnik said the family ultimately decided to double their contribution. They selected a variety of beneficiaries from Refugees International to a nonprofit bank in Cambridge.
“This year we stretched more,” she said. “We increased our giving partly because we’ve had a good year and partly because who knows what’s going to happen next year?”