Charitable Giving Recovering Faster Than Anticipated - Giving USA

Giving USA logo for the 2013 ReportIn the latest edition of npVoices, host Steve MacLaughlin interviews Gregg Carlson of the Giving USA Foundation about the 2013 Giving USA report.

Giving USA 2013

The latest Giving USA report is fairly encouraging. In 2012, $316 billion was given to charity. This means charitable giving showed a 3.5% increase over 2011. Here's why Carlson sees this as promising:

  • Third consecutive year of growth

    This is the 3rd consecutive year since the depths of the Great Recession that has seen charitable giving grow. This is a big deal because between 2007 and 2009, charitable giving in the USA dropped 15%! If you're working in a nonprofit, that isn't a surprise. But a drop in giving had only occurred one other time in the decades we've been studying it. And it wasn't as steep as a 15% drop. Three years of growing shows we're digging out of the hole.

  • Faster recovery now predicted

    Although it will still be a very slow recovery, Carlson is now predicting it taking only 6-7 years to get back to pre-recession levels of giving. In the interview, he noted that last year he was expecting it to take much longer, over 10 years. Last year's giving shows an acceleration that is encouraging.

Individuals still reign

As usual, individuals were the largest contributor to the overall giving. Individuals gave 72% of the overall $316 billion, an increase of 3.9%. And when you factor in bequests (which can only be made by individuals) and family foundations (an increasingly popular way for individuals to give) that number rises to 86%.

For nonprofits raising money, this is a good reminder to focus more time on asking individuals than foundations and corporations. The good news? Foundations and corporations are run by individuals! So your time with key individuals is time very well spent.

Giving to arts recovering; giving to religion slipping

Another interesting trend in the Giving USA report is that giving to arts and culture is increasing. In fact, with an increase of 7.8%, this sector had the largest increase. Carlson notes that giving to arts organizations is usually affected by the stock market. As the stock market grows, affluent donors tend to feel more comfortable and tend to be more generous.

On the other hand, giving to religious institutions decreased by another percent to 32% of all giving. Carlson notes that giving to religion used to account for over 50% of giving in the USA. He points to two primary forces at work here. First, increases in giving to religion tends to reflect increases in income. Since income has remained relatively flat, so has giving to religion. Carlson also refers to Pew studies indicating that overall attendance at faith services continues to decline in the USA. So flat incomes and less people showing up weekly both seem to be contributing to an overall decline in giving to faith based organizations.

Disaster relief isn't as much a factor as anticipated

A final note, as a fundraising coach, I'm often asked by clients how to navigate fundraising around disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Even clients far from the regions affected seem nervous about the impact disaster relief will have on their own fundraising efforts.

Giving USA 2013 is the first look at fundraising for Hurricane Sandy. And the early numbers seem to indicate that the hundreds of millions raised for Sandy relief efforts was still less than 1% of all giving in 2013. Obviously this disproportionately impacts nonprofits in that region and with donors in the affected region. But as you look at your organization's fundraising in the wake of a natural disaster, these numbers can arm you to reassure your board that donors will still give to causes like yours.

Two actions to take today

I've long been a fan of the reports. These help us as fundraisers get a big picture view on fundraising and historic trends going back for decades. As your coach, here's what I'd like you to do:

  1. Listen to the npVoices interview

    As a professional or board member for a nonprofit, you need to know the latest information in fundraising. These 10 minutes give you the highlights and can serve as a launching point for discussions with your board and executive team. The episode is available at:

  2. Buy the report at the Giving USA Foundation site. This ongoing study is done by a nonprofit partially funded by the sale of the report. So go and get it, even if only the $15 edition of the charts. This is information you should be using to educate your staff and board. But please invest in this research by purchasing the report. A direct link to the store is at:
About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Hi Marc,
    I saw this article just seconds before I read yours:

    I prefer your optimistic viewpoint. I read the other article and felt like giving up! Instead I'm off to call a few donors we haven't heard from in a while. Thanks for the kick!


  1. […] A straightforward executive summary from Marc Pitman, the fundraising coach: Charitable Giving Recovering Faster than Anticipated […]

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