American donors of all types contributed an estimated $373.3 billion to approximately 1.2 million U.S. charities in 2015,39 amounting to 2.1% of U.S. GDP.40 American philanthropy is estimated to have grown 18.7% between 2011 and 2015, or at an average rate of 4.7% each of those years.41 The peak of giving in this time span was in 2012 when total giving rose 9.2% over 2011.
Projected growth in total giving in the years 2017 and 2018 is likely to continue to outpace predicted growth in U.S. GDP.42 These increases mean that philanthropy will continue to stake a larger share of the U.S. economic landscape in years to come. Average annual giving is expected to increase $15.34 billion per year between 2014 and 2018, much larger than the average increase of $1.70 billion seen during the years 2009 to 2013.43 Nearly $30 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars will be raised by charities in 2017 and 2018 beyond the 2016 total.
In 2017 and 2018, giving by individuals/households and estates will comprise 79% of total giving. Giving by individuals/households will maintain its share of giving at 71% of the total in 2017, as compared with the years 2014 to 2016, but will drop to 70% of the total in 2018. Estate giving will also remain consistent with prior years, at 9% of the total share of giving for the years 2017 and 2018.
Between the years 2014 and 2016, giving by foundations is estimated to have shifted between 15% and 16% of total giving. Foundation giving is expected to comprise 16% of giving in both 2017 and 2018. Corporate giving will maintain its share of 5% of total giving for these years.
Education giving is expected to grow as a percentage of total giving, from an estimated 15% in 2014 to 17% in 2018. During this same period, giving to health will remain stable at 8% of total giving through 2017 and will grow to 9% of total giving in 2018. The share of giving to public-society benefit is also expected to grow, from 7% in 2014, 2015, and 2016, to 8% in 2017 and 2018.
As discussed earlier in this report, today’s donor environment is one in which donors are seeking more control and engagement in their philanthropy. This trend demands a donor-centric fundraising approach. Specific areas of the philanthropic environment that have helped to cultivate increased donor-centric behavior, and therefore contributions are outlined in the following sections. Understanding what drives today’s donor can help nonprofit organizations of all types ensure a strong relationship with current and prospective donors and proactively plan for the years ahead.