Giving USA: Good News/Bad News

Over the past decade, Kansas City fundraisers have been privileged to be among the first in the country to be given an insider's look at the newly released Giving USA report, thanks to the efforts of NP Connect.

This morning, Dr. Patrick Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, presented the highlights of Giving USA 2015 to a sold-out crowd at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center.

This is a macro perspective on philanthropy, obviously. But while the trends may not apply equally to every individual organization, they do affect all of us who are involved in fundraising. 

Some of the highlights that struck me:

  • Overall giving was up 5.4% over the prior year, finally inching past pre-recession, pre-9/11 levels. In fact, the $358.38 billion is the highest since the report was started some 60 years ago.

    Still, this represents only 2.1% of Gross Domestic Product. Since this research began, philanthropy as a percentage of GDP as been virtually unchanged, ranging from a low of 1.7% to a high of 2.3%
  • Giving by individuals - which represents 72% of total overall giving - was up 4%, but has still not reached the pre-recession/pre-9/11 levels.
  • Almost one third (32%) of charitable dollars go to religious causes/organizations. This category has seen growth since 1985, but is still not back to the level of dominance (50% of total giving) it once enjoyed.

    Dr. Rooney noted that a number of these organizations have not yet fully committed resources to fundraising and cautioned, "If you don't have someone whose primary job is to raise money, you're going to underperform."
  • Giving by corporations was up 11.9%. However, Corporate giving as a percent of pretax profits, actually dropped more than 20%.

    Dr. Rooney did acknowledge that a large amount of corporate support - sponsorships, tables at benefits, etc. - are taken as marketing expenses and do not show up as tax deductible donations. 
  • Giving to International Causes/Organizations fell 3.6% (on top of a 9.7% drop last year). It's worth noting that none of the international crises of this past year – ebola virus, geopolitical refugee crises, the earthquake in Nepal – generated philanthropic interest and response similar to what we saw with the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 or the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Is this because people don't understand or relate to the need?
  • "Millennials and GenXers are not giving their share," Dr. Rooney stated in response to a question from the audience. Again, does this represent a need for additional education?

Overall, a lot good news in this report. The sector is healthy; the number of nonprofits up 6.2% (which also means there's more competition for your donor!)

But in no way is this a call to sit back and relax. As the last two points indicate, there are obvious challenges ahead of us. Communication challenges in particular.

I think it's a call for fundraisers to be even more strategic as they begin making their plans for 2016.