Giving by the Numbers 

This time of year is one of my favorites, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, the weather is excellent, and my girls enjoy more time outside in their wading pool. However, what I love most about this time of year is that this is when the new giving data hits. The Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy is the nation’s longest-running, most comprehensive report on charitable giving trends. Its research, conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, estimates all giving to all charitable organizations across the United States. This report is full of fascinating data, and I always learn something new each year.  

According to Giving USA, 2021 charitable giving totaled $484.85 billion, an increase of 18.62 billion (or 4%). This total reflected another record-setting year, indicating that charitable giving is influential in the United States and plays a significant role in solving the issues and problems in today’s society. However, it was also noted that, while giving increased in total dollars, declined a small amount (-0.7%) after adjusting for inflation. As inflation began taking its toll on non-profits and continues to do so, it is crucial to recognize that there is still more room for improvement. 

“In 2021, many donors returned to their favored causes, with many of the sectors that struggled in 2020 making a recovery in 2021,” said Laura MacDonald, chair of the Giving USA Foundation. Top giving subsectors included arts, culture, and humanities, which showed a significant rebounding increase of 27.5 percent, public-society benefit with 23.5 percent, and environmental and animal causes with 11 percent growth. Additionally, giving to foundations, health, and religion all showed increases. 

Giving to what the report categorizes as public benefit organizations, including civil rights and voting groups as well as donor advised funds (DAFs), has grown in 11 of the last 12 years as well as the growth displayed in 2021. It is believed that donations to DAFs are the most prominent driver of this extended period of growth. A DAF is a type of restricted fund created by a community foundation or other non-profit, designed to provide donors with a way to make charitable gifts to qualified non-profit organizations.  

While individuals remain the motivating source of giving, contributing about 76% of all dollars given in 2021, DAFs are a great way to create additional leverage for those charitable dollars. One reason donors love DAFs is that they may now take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their taxes like they used to. A DAF allows them to “bunch” charitable donations by making a larger donation in a single year to a donor advised fund but still make charitable contributions over time.  

Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said, “The growth that we see for most of the subsectors in 2021 is a reminder of the resilience and innovation that help to drive the philanthropic sector.” To learn more about how you can utilize a DAF to promote resilience and innovation in our community, contact Laura Malone, Development Officer, at 440.984.7390.