Takeaways from the 2018 Giving USA Report

Giving USA 2019 Cover ImageNonprofits, and nonprofit consultants, have learned to value the annual release of the Giving USA Report. It has 470 pages of interesting facts and figures. And if you know what to do with them, and how to benchmark yourself against them (more on that later), they can be very useful tools. If you only look to see that giving has grown for environmental and animal nonprofits but dropped for religious giving, you are getting caught in the hype.

Here are key takeaways from the 2018 Giving USA Report and how they can impact your organization’s donations for 2019:

      1. For the first time since 2009, individual giving dropped (total giving in current dollars increased by .7%). Currently we don’t know if that is due to fewer people able to take tax deductions on charitable contributions, a large push to frontload donations to DAFs, Foundations and individual donations prior to tax law changes is unclear, or economic uncertainty at the end of the year.

        Our advice?

        Ignore the decrease in individual giving. Instead, focus on the $292.09 BILLION that was given by individuals last year. That is a lot of money available to nonprofits. Make sure you know and have a plan for your organization’s development data such as your donor retention, donor’s lifetime value, and the number of monthly donors. Click here if you would like to talk to us about calculating your important statistics and how they benchmark against others.

      2. Giving by corporations increased this past year. We don’t know if that is thanks to increased profits at those companies, increased public concern, or increased public awareness of corporate donation policies (think: marketing/social media benefits that attract younger purchasers who want to “do good” when they buy)

        Our advice?

        Corporate giving is still only 5% of all giving. Unless you are a nonprofit that has a benefit for the corporation to align with corporations’ marketing, target market, and location, you should focus your development efforts on individuals.

      3. Giving by foundations increased 7.3% in current dollars over 2017. Are more foundations paying out higher pecentage of assets? Do foundations feel an increased need, particularly among underserved populations, to which they are responding? We don’t know, but we know it is an area to keep on our radar.

        Our advice?

        Giving by foundations is now $74.86 billion. Giving USA estimates that 64% of independent foundations are family foundations (and 45.6% of total foundation giving.) That is $34.58 billion of foundation giving that should be treated like individual giving. To attract and retain these donors, see #1.

      4. Bequests grew by 14.7% in 2017 but leveled off in 2018. Was that because the organizations who put in effort years before were finally realizing gifts? Or maybe health nonprofits were more successful in extending life (positive thinking!)?

        Our advice?

        Bequest donations may have not increased last year, but 2017’s report showed dramatic results with close to $40 billion transferred in this way. These donors are often low-hanging fruit. They are donors who already care about your organization but need a little education about how impactful this kind of gift can be to your nonprofit. Click here to learn more about bequests estate gifts. Think you don’t have those high-level donors who have millions to give? Consider the breakdown of estimated bequest giving from estates with assets:

        1. Of $5 million or above amounted to $21.44 billion
        2. Between $1 and $5 million amounted to $8.36 billion
        3. Below $1 million amounted to $9.91 billion
      5. Giving to arts, culture and humanities, environmental and animal organizations as well as international affairs organizations were the big winners last year. The amount given to those organizations were either stable or increased.

        Our advice?

        I would venture to say that increased giving to the arts, environment/animals and international nonprofits may not be a coincidence. Those are areas that may be receiving less governmental support and people are worried about their ability to sustain their mission. Don’t count yourself out if you are small or niche.  Give donors a compelling reason to give again and again and they will.

      6. Giving as a percentage of disposable personal income has remained between 1.9% and 2% for the past 5 years.

        Our advice?

        If you focus on doing the right things – identifying, interesting, involving, asking, acknowledging, thanking, stewarding, creating donor-centric campaigns, surveying, investing, different ways of engaging etc., you will raise more money. Staying the same is no longer sufficient just to raise the same amount of money as previous years.  Every nonprofit needs to be considering ways to strengthen their fundraising and development.  If you would like ideas on how to do this, email me today.