2020 Giving USA Report

Is there any good news for giving in the 2020 Giving USA Report?

It’s incredibly important to understand giving trends that impact the vital work YOU are accomplishing today and the context in the broader spectrum of philanthropy in America – especially when amplified by times of great social and economic volatility.

Each year, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the Giving USA Foundation, The Giving Institute and many others work together to produce Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, the most comprehensive and accurate report about charitable giving in the U.S.

It’s my privilege to represent Brewer Direct, and by extension your ministry, as a member of the Giving Institute. It’s from my collaboration with thought leaders in philanthropy and this year’s report that we offer key insights on 1) from where we’ve come, 2) where we are today and 3) what we might expect next in the business of generosity.

Giving USA 2020: a positive outlook in uncertain times

Giving USA Report

The results are in and the news is encouraging for organizations across all segments of the nonprofit arena. In 2019, charitable giving climbed to a whopping $449.64 billion among the 10 subsectors evaluated, making it one of the highest years on record when measured in current dollars, and demonstrating that Americans prioritize giving as a key part of their lives.


Especially reassuring for faith-first organizations – and particularly those that serve their communities’ hurting and homeless – religious institutions received the lion’s share of charitable dollars in 2019, at 29 percent of total giving, or $128.17 billion. When adjusted for inflation, contributions to Religion totaled the fourth highest amount recorded to date.

Human Services took third place at 12 percent of total giving, for nearly $56 billion, resulting in the highest inflation-adjusted amount tallied thus far.

Although not as significantly as other subsectors, giving to both the Religion and Human Services has still increased steadily in the two-year period between 2017 and 2019, at 2.5 percent and 7.1 percent respectively.

Good to Know!

According to Blackbaud Institute’s Charitable Giving Report, online giving to faith-based organizations – for the sample group tracked – increased 8 percent between 2018 and 2019, comprising 10 percent of total giving for these groups. From 2016 to 2019, human services organizations saw a greater increase in online giving than through traditional methods.


2019 Contributions

Another bright spot for organizations, including religious institutions, that rely primarily on financial support from a base of individual donors, giving from Individuals reached 69 percent of total giving – or $309.66 billion – for the top source of funding in 2019.

While giving from this group had actually decreased the previous year, it rebounded in 2019 with an increase of 4.7 percent.

Also significant for faith-based charities, Foundations made up the second most significant source of donations to nonprofits in 2019, at 17 percent, or $75.69 billion. Corporations contributed five percent, or $21.09 billion.


Last year, bolstered by a strong U.S. economy and positive economic conditions, giving from individuals, foundations and corporations presented a promising uphill trend. “But that was then… this is now,” could be the sentiment shared by many nonprofit leaders and fundraisers reacting to the favorable findings of 2019 amid the turmoil of 2020.

Over a recent quarter that’s been largely defined by the COVID-19 global pandemic, it’s no surprise that giving has shifted in sector focus thus far this year.

Despite posting double-digit growth in 2019, the following nonprofit sectors have all struggled to maintain giving momentum:

  • Education
  • Public-Society Benefit
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities
  • Environment and Animal

Meanwhile, nonprofit sectors with a focus more directly responsive to this specific health crisis have been the recipients of increased generosity:

  • Human Services
  • Health
  • Religion

With more financial resources being released for positive change in 2019, it’s all sunshine and glassy waves in 2020 and beyond – right?

I wish.

Next month, we’ll examine a few trends that require our attention and a strategic response if we’re to continue to secure and lift the vital financial support needed for life-changing ministry.


More money given in 9 of the top 10 core sectors in 2019

The assumption is that the Religion sector would be recession proof and fundamentally guided by moral and spiritual obligation, rather than the current national financial mood.

But if that’s the case, here are two really important questions: 1) Why is giving to this sector not keeping up with growth in giving capacity (as measured by the economy and stock market)? and 2) Why is Religion realizing the slowest growth rate of any philanthropic sector over the last 15 years?

As is often the case, it’s the story beneath the story that requires our attention and response.

In the meantime, let’s not miss this opportunity for optimism about philanthropy in America that the Giving USA study provides us today. It’s important to allow bright spots and the positive big picture to buoy our enthusiasm as we serve on the front lines and offer the grace, hope and restoration in Christ to a world that desperately needs it now – as ever.

Thank you for your service. We stand with you through whatever comes next.

Our thanks to you for being an Inspire reader!
Get your discounted copy of Giving USA.

Great news! Get your own copy of the full 2020 Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, an invaluable resource with both data and insight about philanthropy in America. Use the discount code brewer for a 30% discount! To get it now, CLICK HERE.

  • Michael Tomlinson, BDI CEO and President

    Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President

    Michael J. Tomlinson, better known as “MT,” is an accomplished marketing and media executive who has developed highly successful fundraising programs for faith-first charities and organizations across the U.S. and abroad. He brings more than 30 years of executive leadership in business and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management and Marketing.

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