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CapDev Consolidated Coverage of 2016 Giving Data

Posted: 6/16/2017

The 2016 giving data was released this week from Giving USA, an annual study that estimates American philanthropy, and the news is everywhere: AFP, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, GuideStar, Indiana University's Lilly School of Philanthropy. Everyone has something to say.

So here is the CapDev break-down of the report, according to this week's reporting:

  • Americans are generous ($390.1 billion), a record high. (Giving USA)
  • Giving grew (2.7%), but "at a slower rate than in recent years." (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  • "Giving by individuals grows nearly 4%, driving the rise in total giving." (IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy)
  • Contributions to all nine subsectors increased. "Notably, all nine major types of recipient charities experienced increases in giving as well, just the sixth time in the last four decades that this has occurred." (GuideStar)
  • Modest growth in education (2.3%), "compared to increases of 8.4% and 9% in the previous two years." (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  • Environmental and animal-welfare organizations experienced the biggest growth (a nearly 6% increase); and giving to arts and culture groups saw the second biggest jump (5.1%).
  • Bequest giving decreased 10%, simply due to a smaller number of people dying who left behind estate gifts.
  • Percentage of GDP rarely changes, a steady 2.1% of GDP for the past few years is just barely above the 1.9% average of the last 40 years. (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

And, here is some meaning behind the numbers, also according to this week's reporting:

  • Slow growth affects giving - "Giving appears to have been affected by slower growth in key metrics like disposable income and personal consumption that are closely linked to philanthropy. Market results were… mixed, which may have also reined in donors." (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  • Uncertainty did not hurt giving - "…economic and political uncertainty pervaded much of the year." (GuideStar) "the political uncertainty of the past year did not restrain but rather motivated giving." (NPQ)
  • Economy > Politics - "While the political climate may play a role in some donors' decisions to give to charity, research conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and other philanthropy researchers has long demonstrated that aggregate giving trends are influenced by large-scale economic factors. These factors ultimately affect the economic and financial circumstances of all types of donors and, therefore, their ability to give." (IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy)
  • Effect of prominent surges in giving - "…even with all the dollars pouring into the coffers of groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood after the election, other kinds of organizations did not appear to suffer for it." (NPQ)
  • Mid-size donors matter - "There were fewer mega-gifts and many more small and mid-sized gifts. This may well have been the result of increased civic activism in general, but it does not appear to have reduced the giving to other types of groups—at least, not that we can see in these numbers. What this means in terms of action steps is that the small to mid-size supporter is the big story right now. Once you have attracted those donors, your job is to engage and keep them…" (NPQ)
  • Volunteers are givers - "All of this should come as little surprise to nonprofits, since we already knew that volunteering and giving are relatively closely linked behaviors. Thus, the massive number of people who volunteered to show up for protests … over the past six or seven months should have been something of a predictor of what we could expect in giving trends." (NPQ)
  • Innovations continue - "We are seeing more innovation and collaboration, ranging from the tools and platforms used to give, connect, and volunteer, to the ways people and organizations come together to identify and solve complex societal issues." (GuideStar)
  • 2017 predictions - "The biggest things to watch in 2017 will be… how well the stock market performs and if indicators like household income and GDP grow." (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
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