Top 5 Takeaways from the Giving USA Report 2019

The fine folks at the Giving Institute and the University of Indiana Lilly Family School of Philanthropy recently released their Giving USA 2020 report.

For those unfamiliar with the report, it’s arguably the most comprehensive study of philanthropic trends in the United States and benefits from a decades-long publication run.

This longevity means the findings are neatly positioned in context with the last 40 years of data.

As with all years, the title indicates when the report is released, and the most recent data in the report is from the prior year. (I think if we all had the option to take a time machine back to 2019, where the findings of this report live, more than a few of us would jump on that opportunity.)

So, acknowledging that COVID-19 has done a number on the general philanthropic landscape and the larger economy, it is still helpful to wax nostalgic and venture back to see what we learned about giving trends in the year 2019.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  1. Americans gave $449.64 billion to charity in 2019. This was more than $18B greater than in 2018 (in current dollars).
  2. Total giving as a percentage of GDP in 2019 was 2.1 percent.
  3. 69% of all contributions came from individuals ($309.7 B).
  4. Religious institutions continue to bring in the greatest proportion of donations at 29%, or $128.2 billion.
  5. From 2017–2019, the sector that saw the greatest cumulative growth in donation value was… Arts, Culture, and Humanities at 14.4 percent.

2019 was a good year for philanthropy in the United States. A strong economy almost always correlates with stronger fundraising performance, and 2019 was no exception.

And while none of us have a crystal ball, I will close with a prediction: It’s apparent arts, culture, and humanities nonprofits are taking a wallop from the impacts of venue closures and social distancing (no divination required there).

However, I believe these organizations will see a surge in philanthropic giving as soon as venues begin to reopen. Our cultural reentry from our secluded, work-from-home lairs will lead to a record number of first-time visitors and first-time donors.

What is less certain is if these organizations will be prepared to acknowledge and engage these new supporters to help steward a long-term resurgence, or if this influx will be a flash in the pan.


To read the full Giving USA 2020 report, You can order your copy here.

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