Giving USA 2013, the annual report on philanthropy, published by the Giving USA foundation and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, was released yesterday. It should please both the ‘glass-half-full’ and ‘glass-half-empty’ folks among us. You can download a summary here.

First the ‘good’ news. The $316.23 billion contributed to charities in 2012 represented modest year-over-year growth — up 3.9% (or 1.5% adjusted for inflation) — over 2011’s giving in terms of individual gifts and gifts from corporations and foundations.

This is the third consecutive year of growth following the 2008 recession. Although the growth is mighty slow, the trend is indeed up.

Next the ‘bad’ news. The data show U.S. charitable giving is on a slow, slow climb back to pre-recession levels. As Gene Tempel, founding dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy puts it:

“…if giving continues to grow at the rate seen in 2012, it will take between 6 and 7 years for total giving to reach the pre-recession high of $344.48 billion reached in 2007.”

Read and heed! Despite good news for some sectors (I’ll get to that in a moment) there’s nothing in Giving USA 2013 or in any of the other data and reports I’ve seen that indicates some miracle recovery.

In short, there’s no better time than right now to get rid of any rose-colored glasses lying around the office. Giving USA 2013 is but the latest report to make pretty clear that sitting on the sidelines waiting for recovery is a strategy only for the suicidally inclined.

Giving USA 2013 is but the latest evidence that the good old days of plentiful new, and inexpensive donor acquisition is done. Done. Done.

Time to get serious and dig in for the long haul. With demands on charities rising at the same time giving is nearly flat, the wise fundraiser will, of course, focus on RETENTION and BUILDING DONOR LIFETIME VALUE.


Because The Agitator also follows the Blackbaud’s Index of charitable and online giving trends, as well as supporting Giving USA, I checked in with Steve McLaughlin, Director of Blackbaud’s Idea Lab, and an avid follower of online trends. I wanted to not only find out if the 2012 trends were continuing into 2013, but how online giving is faring.

Here’s what Steve reported:

  • Overall charitable revenue has grown by .4% for the period ending April 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. But online giving in that same period grew by 10.2%.
  • In 2012, 93% of all giving came from traditional offline channel, with 7% coming in online.
  • “The growth of online giving in 2012 is a positive sign that nonprofits are starting to see a real return on investment and use of digital tools. One area where we see this in particular is with disaster response giving. Online has become the first response channel of choice for disaster donors.”

You’ll want to catch Steve’s npVOICES interview held yesterday with Gregg Carlson, chair of the Giving USA Foundation.

Giving by Sector or Category

Here’s how various nonprofit sectors or categories fared in 2012 according to Giving USA.

  • Religion. Giving to religion was virtually flat (a -0.02% decline) with contributions estimated to be $101.54 billion. Giving to religious organizations (mostly local houses of worship) represents the largest share of U.S. charitable giving at 32% in 2012.
  • Education. Increased by an estimated 7.0% between 2011 and 2012. Upward of 75% of this money goes to four-year colleges and universities.
  • Human Services. A 3.8% increase over 2011 that includes the estimated $223 million given to support groups working on Hurricane Sandy relieve and recovery efforts.
  • Foundations. Giving to foundations estimated to have declined by 4.6% in 2012.
  • Health Organizations. Increased by an estimated 4.9% to $28.12 billion.
  • Public-Society Benefit Organizations. Increased by an estimated 5.4% to $21.63 billion, likely bolstered by strong growth in charitable gifts to national donor-advised funds.
  • Arts, Culture, Humanities. Up 7.8% over 2011 to $14.44 billion.
  • International Affairs. Up 2.5% to $19.11 billion.

If your organization is beating these trends, care to share your secrets for success?


This article was posted in: Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing, Research.
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