Giving USA 2019 Report on 2018, Part 1

Every year, Giving USA produces a report on charitable giving in America. The 2019 full report came out about a month ago. Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by University of Indiana Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

While you can read my post on last year’s report, let’s look at this year’s data and focus on the where generosity is coming from.

Giving usa

What the report tells us:

  • Over $427 billion was donated to charitable causes in America. Wow! This is more than last year, but is a bit less if you take into account inflation (a little less than 1%)
  • 68% of giving comes from individuals. People. You and me.
  • 18% of giving comes from foundations. Experts estimate that at least ½ of foundations are family foundations, by-the-way.
  • 9% of giving comes from bequests (wills, estate giving, etc.)
  • 5% of giving comes from corporations.

What can we infer from the 2018 data?

  • American individuals, foundations, and corporations are a generous bunch! Charitable giving has risen 33% from 2009 to 2018.
  • The “giving from individuals” category fell below 70% of total giving for the first time in over 50 years...
  • … However, with over 85% of giving coming from people (68% + 9% bequests + at least 9% via foundations), individual engagement is still the number one focus of any school or church fundraising efforts.
  • And while giving by individuals decreased, it still was at its third-highest total dollar amount on record, adjusted for inflation.
  • In 2000, 67% of households gave; in 2014, 55.5%.
  • The stock market was in a bit of turmoil at the end of 2018; studies show that many donors make their charitable decisions in late December, and if the stock market is in decline in the last quarter of the year, so may their generosity levels.
  • Expected changes in the tax laws may have affected decisions. The jury is still out on this, but if you look at similar movements surrounding tax law changes in 1987, 2018 may be another anomaly as donors adjust things.
  • Also regarding the tax law changes, it is expected that the percentage of Americans that itemize their federal tax deductions may have dropped from 30% to 15%. Did this perceived change halt giving? What do you think, does the deductibility of charity affect giving trends?
  • People will tell you that grant-writing is the “saving grace” for charity, but overall, it plays second fiddle to individual giving. However, support from foundations like The Lutheran Foundation is still very integral to our area Lutheran schools and churches. But in the long-term, we MUST engage our people to be sustainable from year to year! Foundation giving did have a record-breaking year with its highest-ever giving level.
  • Giving by corporations can be highly responsive to changes in corporate pre-tax dollars and GDP, and the stimulous package last year may have had helped things.
  • Interesting that giving by bequest held steady. Perhaps more wealth is transferring outside of the will, such as IRA and insurance beneficiary designations? What do you think?
  • We see a trend of increased giving to and from Donor Advised Funds, and that is worth watching more closely as more donors choose DAFs for their charitable giving vehicles. This trend may also affect the timing of charitable gifts going forward. More on these in a future post.

In summary, as Patrick Rooney says, It’s Complicated! In Part 2, we will look at the second half of the yearly study, where are Americans giving to. And with Part 3 will look at the trends and what we should do next. The Lutheran Schools Partnership will continue to help lead the charge for our schools and their associated schools as we all navigate the ever-changing fundraising landscape for long-term viability.

(Warning: there are charts and graphs that follow. Feel free to click away now.)

Giving 2018 Giving over time