The Naples Winter Wine Festival raised $8 million this year, up from last year’s take of $5 million. Does that mean today’s economic climate has more people budgeting goodwill? You bet.

But even so, the money raised this year at the Naples, Fla.-based auction paled in comparison to its blockbuster take of $15.67 million in 2007. The festival has been the top-earning charity wine auction in the country since 2004.

What does this mean for June’s Auction Napa Valley, which raised about $4 million last year, less than half of the $10.3 million it raised in 2008? The Napa auction will likely follow Naples’ lead and generate more money because many people are convinced the worst of the economic downturn is behind us.

At last year’s Auction Napa Valley, Wade Welch, an attorney  from Houston, was a reluctant bidder who said, “If we weren’t in a recession, I would bid five times as much as I would otherwise. And it would be less of an economic decision and more of an emotional one.”

Welch said he and other bidders were worried about economic survival. “A lot of people are concerned about whether their company is going to be around next week. … A lot of  people are wondering, `Am I going to have a job tomorrow?”’

In this economic recovery, people continue to be cautious. A sign of that caution is the popularity of  Naples’ fund-a-need offering. The Jan. 31st auction netted $652,850 for the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaboration, a mental health initiative. The reason bidders clamored to be a part of it is because it allowed them to downsize their donations with options of one, five or $10,000.