Giving USA 2019: What You Might Not Have Heard (Part I)

Topline findings from Giving USA 2019, a study of 2018 charitable giving in the US, have been reported extensively over the past several weeks. Yet the study reveals quite a bit more when you look a little deeper. We’ve been scouring the full report and following the commentary, and will be sharing a few interesting things we’ve learned over the next few weeks.

 1.  What you heard: Americans gave $427.71B in 2018, up .7% compared with 2017 (current dollars, or down 1.7% adjusted for inflation).

What you might not have heard: The sky is not falling. Though such a slight increase in giving sounds worrisome, 2018 was the second-highest giving total EVER, following a record-breaking 2017. Giving has grown steadily since the end of the recession, and it’s not uncommon to level-off after a long growth period.

Our tip: Spend some time looking at your numbers. Do they follow the trends? Knowing where you are allows you to better strategize for the future.

2.  What you heard: 2018 was a complex year in fundraising, with economic conditions and the policy environment influencing giving behaviors.

What you might not have heard: The true effects of economics and policy (especially the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017) are not known (yet). The numbers just haven’t been collected and analyzed (yet), though a lot of anecdotal evidence and estimates exist. There was and will continue to be an effect; we just won’t understand it fully for a while longer.

Our tip: Continuing to invest in retaining donors is always a good strategy. Strong relationships can help nonprofits weather the changes in economics and policy.

3.  What you heard: Giving from living individuals as a percentage of total giving fell below 70% (to 68%) for the first time since at least 1954. Making up the rest of the pie: Foundations (18%, up), Bequests (9%, flat), and Corporations (5%, up).

What you might not have heard: Individual giving is still over 80% if bequests, family foundations and donor advised funds are part of the individual bucket. Individual giving still makes up the bulk of charitable giving in the United States, though the “how” of this giving is seeing significant changes.

Our tip: Understand and build multiple means for giving into your fundraising program. No matter how a donor gives, make sure they are thanked and feel appreciation.

Watch for our next post soon with more of what we’ve learned!