Strong Increases in Giving Hide More Turbulent Times

Posted on

Click here to read on AFPGloal.

By Mike Geiger

GivingUSA 2021, produced by the GivingUSA Foundation and researched by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, announced last week that giving in 2020 grew to $471.4 billion, an increase of 5.1% from the $448.7 billion given in 2019.

Similarly, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s 2021 First Quarter Report, administered by the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy in collaboration with GivingTuesday and released last week, found that giving grew by 6% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020, with the number of donors growing by 10% over those same time periods. These findings followed the 2020 Fourth Quarter Report, where the FEP saw giving increase by 10.6% in 2020.

That we have two entirely different research projects with different data sets finding such strong growth in giving is tremendous news. The pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis and the increased focus on advancing anti-racism and social justice all created increased demand for charitable service, and the continued generosity of American donors did not disappoint.

On the other hand, the topline good news obscures some other data that we need to understand: Not all subsectors enjoyed the same amount of growth in giving. According to GivingUSA 2021, five of nine subsector categories experienced growth in giving of 9% or more, including public-society benefit, environmental and animal, human services, international affairs and education.

On the other hand, giving to health organizations decreased by 3%, while giving to art, culture and humanities charities plummeted by 7.5%. Giving to foundations and religious giving was stagnant.

The FEP 2021 First Quarter Report found an even more pronounced differentiation, with human service charities the only type of organizations to see increases in both average and median dollar growth, while all other subsectors continued to contract.

We’ve all talked about this trend, but we now have the data to back it up: the impact of the pandemic was not the same on all organizations. Some organizations did very well, and others did not. Larger gifts and the strong fundraising success of some groups tends to hide the anemic growth or decreases in giving that many other organizations are experiencing.

Moving out of the pandemic toward some sort of “new normal” will hopefully help all organizations. But many variables still exist. Will new strains of the coronavirus return us back to lockdowns and virtual-only events? Will we need additional vaccinations at some point? And what about concerns over the rising rate of inflation and how that might affect the economy and charitable giving?

AFP will be looking at all of these possibilities and keeping track of them—and their impact on fundraising—for you over the next year and beyond. In the meantime, I encourage you to look over both reports—you can find information about GivingUSA 2021 here, and the FEP First Quarter Report can be downloaded here—to glean important data and insights you can use at your own organization.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note we’re holding a panel on this data and fundraising trends overall during AFP ICON 2021 Virtual, which kicks off next Monday. Click here to learn more and register for a great conference full of great sessions and presenters who can help you raise more money in 2021!

Return to Insights & Events