Today marks the release of this year’s Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Giving USA, the largest and most comprehensive annual giving report in the market, is produced and released through a collaboration of The Giving Institute and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

For fundraisers, this report represents an annual performance assessment across philanthropic organizations and offers an opportunity to see how our own institutions and successes stack up. Not only is the report packed with high-quality data and analysis, but it also offers synthesis of annual trends across nine subsectors: religion; education; human services; gifts to foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture & humanities; international affairs; and environment & animals. As a Giving Institute member and sponsor of the report, CCS is pleased to share some of compelling   trends and takeaways.

2016 was the United States’ most philanthropic year to date, with $390.1 billion given to philanthropic causes. This represents a 2.7% increase in giving over 2015. It is not surprising that the rate of growth in giving decreased from 4.0% to 2.7% (in current dollars) from 2015 to 2016. According to the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, charitable giving tends to decline while political giving rises during an election year, and political giving was important to many American families in 2016.

Despite this, giving as a percentage of GDP remained steady from 2015 to 2016 at 2.1%, as did giving as a percentage of disposable income (2%). This number has not budged in over four decades and continues to remain steady. Read more about this challenge here.

Giving by individuals remains the largest source of philanthropic dollars. In 2016, individuals accounted for 72%, or $281.86 billion, of the total. Overall, individual giving saw an increase of 3.9%. When taking an even more comprehensive look at individuals, the percentage of total giving is even higher; it is estimated that giving by individuals, bequests, and family foundations accounted for 87% of total giving in 2016.

Other donor groups saw a growth in giving as well. Giving by foundations (community, family, and private) increased 3.5%, representing 15%, or $59.28 billion, of the total given. Corporate giving represents 5%, $18.55 billion, of the total, an increase of 3.5% over 2015.

Bequests account for 8% of total giving, or $30.36 billion. This represents a 9% decrease, following an increase of 7.3% (in current dollars) in 2015. Overall, bequests decreased by 2.3% from 2014 to 2016. Bequests are only realized when a donor passes away, and so it is not atypical for them to oscillate greatly from year to year, particularly when principal gifts are involved.[1]   

All recipient subsectors saw growth in 2016, but some saw more than others. Despite being the smallest subsector, environment and animal organizations had the most significant increase of all, with 7.2% growth in giving from 2015 to 2016. Giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased 6.4% from 2015 to 2016. Though not as significant an increase in 2016 as in 2015, giving to international affairs grew 5.8% in 2016.

In the late summer of 2015, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative reported that almost 25% of surveyed health organizations were conducting capital campaigns. Given this, it is not surprising that giving to health organizations grew 5.7% in 2016. This represents the fourth most significant growth rate of any subsector, and a marked increase from 2015 when the subsector saw a modest 0.6% increase (in current dollars).

Gifts to the religion subsector totaled $122.94 billion, representing 32% of the total, a 3% increase over 2015. In years past, religion held a much larger share of total giving. Read more about religious giving trends here, and resources for religious organizations here and here. Representing 15% of the total (or $59.77 billion), giving to education increased 3.6% from 2015 to 2016. Giving to human services, public-society benefit organizations, and foundations grew modestly in 2016.

We encourage you to deeper into Giving USA’s annual report for more details and statistics. To purchase the full report, visit givingusa.org.  In the meantime, we invite you to share in the comments below anything about this new data that surprises, concerns, or encourages you!

[1] According to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s May 2017 report, the distribution of bequest amounts received in 2016 were nearly identical to those in 2015, with 33% reporting average bequest amounts ranging from $25,001 to $100,000. The difference between 2015 and 2016 can be explained by the NRC’s finding that in 2016 only 1% reported planned gifts averages of $1 million or more, versus 3% in 2015.

About the Author

Meg O’Halloran is an Executive Director with CCS. Meg has significant experience in capital campaigns, major gift solicitation, grant writing, volunteer, and prospect management. While with CCS, she has worked in the environmental, education, and religion sectors. Meg is a volunteer author for Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, co-writing both the Public Society Benefit and Donor-Advised Fund chapters in Giving USA 2017, and the Public Society Benefit chapter in Giving USA 2016. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.