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Charitable Giving Remains Strong: Giving USA Report on 2021 Philanthropy

The always anticipated release of the annual Giving USA study on philanthropic activity in the United States shows that Americans in 2021 continued to give at a slightly increased level over 2020.

You may not have been alone in worrying that 2020’s generosity inspired (in part) by the pandemic would taper-off significantly in 2021. But data show that giving by individuals, foundations and corporations all increased in 2021 over 2020 levels. In sum, overall giving remained nearly consistent in 2021 ($484.85 billion) compared with 2020 ($488.1 billion) when adjusted for inflation.

Among the key findings of the Giving USA study released this June that you may want to keep in mind are:

  • Americans donated $484.85 billion in 2021 which is a 4% increase over 2020 giving.

  • When adjusted for inflation, giving in 2021 was a nearly-static level of giving compared to 2020.

  • Giving by individuals still represents the majority of philanthropic activity (67%), with foundations representing the second-largest source of income (19%).

But knowing this information is only half of the story. How could one leverage these morsels?

Many development professionals find this annual release of findings from Giving USA to be an effective conversation starter with your CEO, with your board leadership, and with your donors. Consider leveraging a few of these findings to initiate conversations with your board about their invaluable role in philanthropy, perhaps especially as it relates to identifying prospective donors and stewarding gifts.

Further, the data remind us of the consistently important role of individual donors in building the base of contributed revenue for most nonprofits. Invest time and intentionality in deepening those individual donor relationships. Stewardship continues to be a key component to retention: donors want to see how we are using their generous gifts.

And, as a bonus, don’t overlook the power of donor advised funds or DAFs. These giving vehicles continue to see remarkable growth in philanthropic giving over recent years, and could likely yield fruitful opportunities for your development program in the years to come.

A concise infographic is available here, and the key findings here.

Cape Fletcher Associates

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