Tuesday, June 21, 2022


Today, June 21, 2022, the Giving USA Foundatiion issued its annual report on US philanthriopy for calendar 2021. 

Key findings :

  • Giving remained strong in 2021, reaching a total of $484.85 billion.
  • Between 2020 and 2021, corporate giving increased 18.3% in inflation-adjusted dollars, individual giving was fairly flat, foundation giving declined -1.2% in inflation-adjusted dollars, and bequest giving declined by -11.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars. However, all four sources experienced positive two-year growth.
  • Giving to health and arts rebounded after a difficult 2020. Giving to arts, culture, and humanities grew 27.5%, and giving to health grew 7.7% in 2021, bolstered by a strong stock market and a return to in-person activities.
  • Giving to international affairs, human services, and education experienced low growth or declines in 2021 after reaching record-highs in 2020.
  • Giving to the environment, animals, public-society benefit organizations, and foundations all grew by 10% or more in 2021.
  • The environment is a smaller category of giving, but shows impressive growth, and boasts a broad range of donors with different income and age levels.
  • Online giving represented 12% of total giving in 2021. 
This data has been published annually since the mid-1950s For the past several years, the research has been provided by the Indiana Universirty Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, in partnership with the Giving USA Foundation. 

Overall, it is the most complete and comprehensive information available from any source. That said, it is best to accept the data as provisional, if not incomplete. For example, remittance philanthropy is not included, likely because of the difficulty of collecting data. However, it is estimated, from other sources, to be in the billions. Yes, it can be argued that remittance giving cannot be defined as philanthropic, strictly speaking. However altruism is common to both charitable and remittance giving.

Estate giving is also underestimated because most estates are not large enough to have to file a federal tax return, the data source relied on. Religious giving data is also problematic because religious organizations -- e.g. the Salvation Army, an enormous charity -- and churches, mosques, synagogues, etc,., are not required to file 990s. For that reason, giving to religion (despite a sharp drop in regiously-affiliated individuals) is arguably higher than what's reported. 

Also corporate giving estimates are slippery because much of the giving is written off as marketing which is, of course, a deductible business outlay. 

At this moment, the US economy appears headed for a recession, driven by supply shortages and war. How that will affect this year's giving remains to be seen. But in past recessions, charitable giving held up fairly well. 

Let us hope!

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