Giving USA

Every June, the Giving USA Foundation report on charitable giving in the United States is released. This is the oldest and most often quoted charity-related summary report.

A huge part of the great respect this report has is based upon the credentials of the Giving USA Foundation and the behind-the-scenes work of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which provides a wide range of research.

Here are a few of the highlights of the report as well as my thoughts.

According to our estimates for Giving USA 2014, Americans gave $335.17 billion to charity in 2013.

Although this is a wonderfully large number and certainly reflects the diligent efforts of so many professional fundraisers and charity executives as well as the outpouring of funds from individuals, foundations and corporations, it is barely keeping up as a percentage of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product or GDP.

In 2013 U.S. GDP was 17.528 trillion dollars. Therefore, the Giving USA number of 335.17 billion represents 1.91% of GDP. Hovering around the 2% has been the case throughout the history of the Giving USA Report findings.

Keeping pace with GDP is okay, but other portions of the private sector seem to be able to make the investments to enhance productivity and output enough to allow their growth to surge ahead of GDP growth. I think it is food for thought and is summarized quite well by my friend Roger Craver in this recent post.

This total giving estimate is approaching the pre-recession peak for total giving, adjusted for inflation, seen in 2007. In fact, if total giving continues to grow at the current inflation-adjusted, two-year average rate of 4.2 percent, we estimate it would take just one to two more years to reach or surpass the pre-recession peak.

We seem to be encouraged – if not satisfied – to return to pre-recession levels. There are very few if any successful organizations that are striving to return to the status quo.

I fervently believe that all of us in this sector can and should reach higher with our expectations!

In 2013 we saw the fourth consecutive year of growth in total giving, driven by an increase in individual giving.

If this does not prove where most, if not all, of the effort in fundraising should be placed for most small-to-medium-sized organizations I do not know what will. Not only is giving by individuals the largest portion of the pie by far, it is also the fastest growing by far!

This should be shared with all NPO executive teams and board members.

This is encouraging, but many charities are still in need, especially in the human services.

This is even truer for small-to-medium-sized charities. They, more often than not, lack the training or technical tools to compete on anywhere near a level playing field of fundraising with larger charities.

Three out of the four sources of giving increased (only corporate giving did not).

And yet, so much effort is still placed in reaching out to corporations to give!

Giving in most subsectors grew; however, the gains were not equal across the board for all categories of charities. Three subsectors were flat (religion) or saw giving to their subsector fall (international giving and giving to foundations).

I suggest that if you are a charity staff person or board member reading this post, you will take time to read the estimates and insights in the full press release.

If you have additional thoughts regarding the Giving USA highlights or my comments please leave them via our comment section. Thanks once again to Giving USA and The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy for the most complete and up to date research on charitable giving in our country!


Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.