Still, Mr. Nelkin is optimistic United Way won't see a decline in fundraising for the current year's campaign, which runs through April 2013.
Last year, the agency raised $32.3 million, the highest amount in nine years. "The results at this time look very positive for another year of growth ... even during tough economic times," he said. "There are some very good indications about people renewing [donations] at the same rate and ... increasing."
Among a group of about 400 wealthy donors who in the past have given United Way large gifts of $10,000 or more, 73 have already renewed a pledge for the same amount as last year and 54 have increased their commitment, Mr. Nelkin said. Fifteen people have pledged a lower amount.
Among donors of all income levels, 90 percent who have committed money to United Way to date have increased their pledge or kept it at the same level as last year, he said.
Since 75 percent of all United Way donations typically come between mid-October and early December, Mr. Nelkin expects a steady flow to continue until Dec. 31.
If donors raise questions about possible changes in tax laws, he asks them to act now. "We encourage them. The nonprofit agencies that receive donations through us are really in need."
Charitable donations nationwide in 2011 rose approximately 1 percent to $298 billion, according to the Giving USA Foundation, which tracks contributions and is affiliated with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
No matter how much is generated for nonprofits' coffers in 2012, it's a sure bet significant dollars will be donated during the last few weeks of the year.
A survey released by Charity Navigator last month found nonprofits on average receive 40 percent of their annual contributions in December while 88 percent of donors surveyed planned to give during the year-end holiday season.
Just over half of the 40 charities polled said they expected year-end donations will be about the same as in 2011, while 32 percent expect giving to increase and 6 percent said it would decline.
But the total number of individual donors could fall this year, according to an annual survey conducted in November by the American Red Cross.
In a poll of about 1,000 adults, 52 percent said they planned to give to charities this year, down from 57 percent in 2011 and 2010. Among those who had already donated to victims and relief efforts related to Superstorm Sandy, 78 percent said they would still make their annual year-end gifts to other charities.
And though this tech-savvy age provides donors a range of options for making their gifts, including cell phone texts or social media, the Red Cross survey found that a majority prefer to do their transactions the old-fashioned way: 56 percent of individuals said the most effective means of donating was to put money aside in a canister or give it to people who solicit in public.