Giving USA and the State of the Union’s Generosity

Ken Marotte, Senior Writer and Managing Director

For those of us who follow the fundraising sector’s latest trends and patterns, it’s Christmas in June! The latest edition of Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy was released last week, and as usual, it’s brimming with sharp insights you can’t afford to miss. Some of the most significant findings – all relating to U.S. giving in 2017 – appear below.

  • Driven by a strong stock market and robust GDP growth, charitable giving soared by more than 5 percent to $410 billion, surpassing $400 billion for the first time in history. This was the fourth consecutive year of growth in American giving.
  • Each source of giving enjoyed year-over-year percentage growth. Corporations saw the strongest increase, driven by substantial support for disaster relief efforts, but individuals still account for the largest share of giving.
  • Foundations received significant support from donors, spurred in large part by mega-gifts from individuals like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
  • Religious causes claimed the lion’s share of support (nearly one-third), with education and human services coming in second and third, respectively.
  • Americans contributed 2.1 percent of their incomes to charity, up from 2 percent in 2016. As such, much of the growth in giving was powered more by economic prosperity than by a marked increase in Americans’ propensity to give.

The takeaways for you and your organization? Engage existing donors while economic conditions enable them to support your nonprofit at historically high levels. Make your asks a bit more ambitious than they’d ordinarily be. Prioritize donor acquisition, as prospects will be much more likely to support your cause with additional funds in the bank. And finally, reach out to your foundation and corporate contacts to gauge their interest in new projects and/or increased support.

The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca once observed that “luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” Well, the opportunity is here. Prepare carefully, act with purpose and persistence, and enjoy the fruits of your work.

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