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3 Takeaways from Giving USA: 2024 Annual Report on Philanthropy

Giving trends and data-backed strategies for fundraising

From Michael J. Tomlinson (“MT”), CEO and President, BDI

In June, The Giving Institute released Giving USA 2024: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. This report is the longest-running and most comprehensive examination of charitable giving in America. For fundraisers and nonprofit leaders, understanding the data-backed insights, trends and key takeaways is essential for developing effective strategies to engage with donors meaningfully.

As we serve in an increasingly complex philanthropic landscape, having access to reliable data that can inform our strategies as organizational leaders is essential. BDI is proud to partner with The Giving Institute – through participation in their Board of Directors and in helping to disseminate their findings to our client partners and our readership of nonprofit professionals.

In previous years, I provided an overview of key takeaways from the 2022 and 2023 reports. These reports offer a detailed analysis of giving patterns across various sectors, helping nonprofits make informed decisions. Whether you’re a seasoned fundraiser or just starting out, I hope you’ll consider these 3 takeaways from this year’s report that can help shape your strategy and boost your fundraising efforts.

With that as our introduction, let’s dive into the data! 

Economic challenges notwithstanding, charitable giving in 2023 reached a new high of $557.16 billion in 2023. However, it’s important to note that this increase did not outpace inflation (with 2021 remaining the best year of giving on record).

  Total giving grew 1.9% in current dollars. Adjusted for inflation, giving declined by 2.1%.

Keep in mind the tumultuous backdrop to this outpouring of generosity, in 2023 and the last six years: Ongoing geopolitical crises in Ukraine and the Middle East. Economic uncertainty. A global pandemic. Changing norms around religious affiliation. Above-average rates of inflation… Despite an environment of polycrisis – or multiple, concurrent threats impacting giving – American donors have continued to give, and to give generously. 

Next Steps: Given the data, I encourage you to double down on your efforts to build trust with your donors, and to invest in strategies that invite others into the fold. In today’s environment, transparency and accountability are paramount. 

Regularly communicate with your donors, provide updates on the impact of their contributions, and be clear about how funds are used. Building strong relationships based on trust will encourage continued support.

KEY TAKEAWAY #2: Giving across sources had mixed results, but overall performed better than economists projected.

While all sources of giving saw growth in current dollars in 2023, when adjusted for an inflation rate of 4.1%, all four sources experienced a decline (-2.1%). However, dig a bit deeper and you’ll find a few bright spots in this data:

  • In 2023, the S&P 500 grew 24.2% in current dollars (19.3% adjusted for inflation) – an increase that led economists to revise their estimates upward.
  • Corporations and foundations experienced positive two-year growth, even when adjusted for inflation. And foundation giving has grown to 19% of total charitable contributions!

Next Steps: Cultivating and acquiring new individual donors will always be an important cornerstone of your fundraising program, but this data highlights the importance of other sources like corporations and foundations. As more companies offer matching gifts, in-kind giving and donations of volunteer hours, consider exploring new avenues for partnership and tap into the support of corporations. 

Foundations are also looking for new ways to leverage their funds, often with fewer restrictions. For nonprofits, this means more opportunities to secure grants and build lasting relationships with foundations who may be aligned in value and mission to your cause.

KEY TAKEAWAY #3: Giving to Human Services is growing as a share of giving over time.

Reporting on Giving USA’s 2023 takeaways, I reported that giving to Human Services was relatively flat. The latest data shows encouraging, sustained growth in this sector. 

Yet, of particular interest to faith-based charities, while giving to Human Services is up, giving to Religion is down. How are faith-based Rescue Missions and other Christian charities who offer human services to reconcile this data?

Giving to religion (e.g., tithe at church) is declining as a share of giving.

During and after the pandemic, many humanitarian and Human Services organizations witnessed donations pouring in. At the same time, we’ve seen waning religious motivation to give and the decline of the tithe over time. While we should prepare for a decline of the tithe to affect faith-based charities similarly, I encourage you to believe for abundance… and to prepare accordingly. Although a smaller share is going to religion, faith and religious values are still informing the behavior of donors who are giving to Human Services.

Next Steps: Provide wider onramps to participation – to Christian and non-religious donors alike. Consider segmenting your messaging and making specific cases for support that appeal to unique donor audiences. Where one person may be more likely to respond to spiritual messaging in a call to action to give, another may be more motivated when you help them understand the hard realities of what will happen if they don’t give (i.e., more people will go unhoused… more people will go hungry, etc.). 

In asking for support, believe your boldness will be rewarded when you invite donors to be part of the transformative work you are doing to save and change lives.

Final Thoughts

In philanthropy and fundraising there will always be new challenges to contend with, yet I hope you’re encouraged – as I am – by Giving USA’s 2024 data, which demonstrates that the spirit of generosity in the U.S. remains strong!

American donors are resilient, even as they face continued economic uncertainty and multiple concerns and crises vying for their attention and their financial support. May our organizations meet them with that same resiliency and an eagerness to expand our offers to appeal to a wider audience who is eager to give generously. 

This year’s findings underscore the critical role of strategic fundraising and the need for nonprofits and those of us leading cause work to adapt and innovate in our approach. As we navigate through these times of polycrisis, the insights provided by The Giving Institute and other leaders in our field are more valuable than ever. This data offers a roadmap for engaging with our donors and maximizing impact in an ever-changing philanthropic landscape.

As we move forward, my hope and prayer is that you would join me in taking these findings to heart, leveraging the data to refine and enhance your strategies that will impact more lives. Your organization, your donors and the individuals you serve will benefit from your dedicated efforts… and together, we will increase philanthropy’s potential to drive positive change in even more lives.

Michael J. Tomlinson CEO and President BDI

  • 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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