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A Leaner Future

HOLD on to your mailbox.

The barrage of fund-raising appeals from charities that traditionally comes during the holidays could become a year-round event.

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Congress is considering cutting projected federal spending on government grants, contracts, and vouchers to charities by as much as $260 billion between 1996 and 2002. Further cuts in welfare and other entitlement programs that typically serve the needy would bring the total to about $770 billion over the next seven years.

That means charities could be doing double time. They would have to try not only to make up for lost government funding, but also to fill the void left by cuts in other programs. All this at a time when demand for charity is expected to rise.

On average, charities get 30 percent of their funding from the federal government; some get 50 percent or more. To make up for this loss, by 2002 private giving would have to increase 84 percent. To make up for the overall cuts, giving would have to rise nearly 250 percent, according to a joint study by Alan Abramson at the Aspen Institute in Washington and Lester Salamon at Johns Hopkins University.

That means Americans would have to give 16 times more to make up for the cuts in government funding to charities, and 50 times more to make up for the overall cuts, Mr. Abramson says.

''As generous as Americans are,'' he says, ''it's hard to see how that's going to happen.''

What about corporate America? Companies account for only 4.7 percent of private support to charities. In addition, corporate giving, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen off recently.

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