Giving USA 2013

The annual Giving USA report is out, and there is mixed news.

In 2012, the growth of charitable giving followed the slow growth of the economy: giving was up by 3.5% over the previous year, but when accounting for inflation, the growth was actually just 1.5%. While last year’s current dollars donated was $316.23 billion, philanthropic giving has not yet returned to the high reached in 2007 using inflation-adjusted dollars.

According to the report findings, “while charitable giving is growing, if it continues to grow at current rates, giving will not reach the high of $344.48 billion in 2007 for at least six years.” The climb out of the philanthropic recession looks to be slow, following the general economic recovery by several years.

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Giving by individuals still tops the charts in regards to sources of revenue. Outright donations were 72.4% of total giving, bequests were 7.4%, while giving from foundations totaled 14.5% of all giving. Foundations are roughly evenly split between private foundations and public, so that fully half of foundation giving is the result of individual giving decisions. Fully 87% of all giving, then, derives from individual sources.

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Giving to religion held steady at 32% of all giving in 2012. However, that should not overshadow the fact that the rate was 50% before 1995 and has been in decline for nearly 20 years. Other charitable institutions besides religious bodies should take note of this, because religious givers have historically been the highest givers to non-religious causes.

contributions by recipient type
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What is an appropriate response to the slow recovery of generosity? Here are my recommendations:

  1. Invest in Generosity – a dollar spent encouraging donors to be generous has a much higher return than the same dollar invested in the stock market.
  2. Diversity – if you have only one giving vehicle (annual support, church pledge campaign, etc.), it’s time to develop new ways for people to give.
  3. Dream Big – cast your vision of changed people and a changed world, reach for the sky!
  4. Demonstrate Impact – show your constituents that what you do matters
  5. Focus on Donor Relationships – listen to them, find out why they are connected and what their dreams are
  6. Say Thank-You – make phone calls and write notes, let them know you’ve noticed