June 14th marked the release of this year’s Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Giving USA is the largest and most comprehensive annual giving report in the market, 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 average 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 sectors: religion; education; human services; gifts to foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture, and humanities; international affairs; and environment and animals. As a Giving Institute member and sponsor of the report, CCS has hosted a series of events called Perspectives on Philanthropy: Giving USA 2016 and Today’s Philanthropic Landscape across the country. Throughout these hosted discussions with our colleagues and friends, we’ve noted a few key trends.

2015 was the United States’ most philanthropic year to date, with $373.25 billion given to philanthropic causes, a 4.1% increase over 2014. Giving by individuals remains the largest source of philanthropic dollars. Individuals account for 71%, or $264.58 billion, of the total given, representing 67% of growth in 2015. Overall, individual giving saw an increase of 3.8%. Not included in this number are gifts from family foundations and bequests (estate gifts from deceased donors). When added together, giving by individuals, bequest, and family foundations represent approximately 87% of total giving in 2015.

Giving by foundations (community, family, and private) increased 6.5%, representing 16%, or $58.46 billion, of the total given. Bequests account for 9% of total giving, $31.76 billion, a 2.1% increase over 2014. Meanwhile, corporations represent 5%, $18.45 billion, of the total, an increase of 3.9% over 2014.

Combined, philanthropy grew 10.1% over 2014 and 2015, representing the first time in a decade that a two-year combined total giving experienced double-digit growth. The last time was in 2004 – 2005, with a 15.4% increase. Despite this, giving as a percentage of GDP remained steady from 2014 to 2015 at 2.1%, as did the percentage of disposable income (2%).

All but one recipient sub-sector saw growth in 2015. Contributions to the religion sector represented $119.30 billion of the $373.25 billion, or 32% of the total, a 2.7% increase over 2014. In years past, religion held a much larger share of total giving. The decline in church attendance may account for some of this difference, but it’s also worth noting that Giving USA does not count organizations such as Salvation Army or Catholic Charities (faith-based organizations) in this sector since they are more closely aligned with human services. Therefore, it’s possible that philanthropic dollars that might have once been given to religious organizations are now given to human services.

Giving to education, in its sixth consecutive year of growth, has increased 8.9% from 2014 to 2015. Giving to human services grew 4.2%. Giving to health organizations grew a modest 1.3%. This sector may face growth in 2016, as the Nonprofit Research Collaborative reports that almost 25% of surveyed health organizations were conducting capital campaigns as of late summer 2015.

Giving to public-society benefit organizations increased 6%. Giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased 7% from 2014 to 2015. Giving to environment and animal organizations, the smallest recipient sector, grew 6.2%.

Notably, giving to foundations declined 3.8%, or $42.26 billion from 2014 to 2015. In contrast, giving to international affairs, which previously faced two straight years of decline, grew 17.5% from 2014 to 2015. This increase in giving may be attributed to the earthquake in Nepal, the Syrian refugee crisis, or other such events.

To secure your copy of the full report, go to www.givingusa.org. In the coming months, we will continue to discuss certain elements of the Giving USA report and how to put the results into action. In the meantime, we’d like to hear your thoughts about the report in the comments section below.

What about the report surprises you, and is there anything in the data that encourages or concerns you?

Leave your comments, email info@ccsfundraising.com or share your thoughts on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter. Visit CCS’s website to learn more about how CCS is helping extraordinary organizations champion inspirational causes.

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 and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).