Today marks the 2019 release of Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy©, the longest running, most comprehensive report on philanthropy in America. It reports a volatile year for philanthropy. Estimated giving rose just 0.7% over 2017 to $427.71 billion in 2018 contributions.
So what happened in 2018? Well, it’s complicated. Individual giving was down 1.1% and four sectors saw declines. The economy was strong but a changing policy environment stalled giving from individuals, influenced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The stock market plunged in the final two weeks of 2018 right during prime giving season. Yet, over two years ( 2016 to 2018), giving grew a total of 8% and every recipient sector and source realized a cumulative increase.
To provide additional perspective, our seventh annual Bene Graphic portrays this volatile year as a series of science experiments. Our infographic highlights key dynamics:
- Unknown Element: Why did giving to four sectors decline and individual giving stall in 2018? Was it the result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which diminished tax incentives for charitable giving for some and caused a 2017 surge in giving for others? Or was it the steep market losses in the last two weeks of the year when many make their giving decisions?
- Super Concentrated: Giving may be going up (mostly), but it is also becoming more concentrated at the top. Just 100 charities (or .006% of 1.56 million) received 11% of all charitable gifts. And 90% of high-net-worth households give compared to just 56% of all households. On the bright side: the gender, generation, race and sexual orientation of donors are diverse.
- Evolving Data: Giving USA© annual estimate of charitable giving is calculated from IRS data, the Philanthropy Panel Study, and economic measures such as the S&P 500 and personal income. As more data becomes available, Giving USA© refines estimates for the two prior years. Recent tax reform will reduce the availability of this data and make the calculation even more challenging.
- Under the Microscope: Donor Advised Funds…escalating salaries…undue donor influence…tainted gifts…supersized endowments. All have become targets of regulators and philanthropy’s critics in the US and globally, placing the entire sector under the microscope.
- Heavy Mettle: Campaigns are getting bigger. In 30 states, the largest ongoing campaign goal was $1 billion+! This wave of “conquest” campaigns counts on big gifts, 7+ years’ duration, and creatively counting all current and deferred gifts.
- TCJA Action/Reaction: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may be one cause of a decline in individual giving, because the increase in standard deductions means most won’t claim itemized deductions for charitable gifts. Yet, dozens of corporations announced increased charitable giving as a result of their tax-break windfall.
- Two Years of Flux: From 2016 to 2018, giving grew by a total of $31 billion, and every recipient and source experienced an increase. But a closer examination shows annual oscillations.
The Giving USA 2019 infographic provides insights for your organization— and just a bit of entertainment — to serve the common good. Request your copy to be mailed to you free of charge or download your copy here.