The Philanthropy Outlook provides nonprofit scholars and practitioners with critical information about the charitable giving environment in 2020 and 2021.

This includes projected philanthropic contributions by donor source (individuals/households, foundations, bequests, and corporations) and gifts to three recipient subsectors (education, health, and public-society benefit). While many reports contain anecdotal predictions for charitable giving, The Philanthropy Outlook provides empirical data produced through rigorous analysis that fundraisers and nonprofits can use to develop effective strategies for their organizations in the coming years.

This edition of The Philanthropy Outlook projects giving for the years 2020 and 2021 in relation to the year 2019.1 After a couple of transition years for giving due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and other factors, estimates for 2020 and 2021 reflect a return to broad growth in charitable giving. We explain how different economic variables will affect giving by source and to the three subsectors during these years, and provide additional context for the giving predictions. This context includes information about how broad economic conditions may alter the philanthropic landscape.

No forecast model can project future conditions with absolute certainty, and all models have a margin of error.2 As noted in the first edition of The Philanthropy Outlook, forecasts are affected by three conditions: the number of future predictions made, unpredictable events or shocks, and the stability of the underlying variables used in the model.3 Following the presentation of the results within this report, we provide context to help nonprofits and fundraisers get a more full picture of the results.

Philanthropy Outlook 2020 & 2021

This section presents the projections for total giving, giving by source, and giving to the three recipient subsectors included in this report and describes how different economic variables will impact giving. Overall, Americans should expect philanthropic growth in the coming years:

  • The growth rate for total giving is expected to rise above the historical 10-year, 25-year, and 40-year annualized average rates of growth.4
  • All sources of giving are projected to increase their contributions in 2020 and 2021. Giving by bequest will see the largest increase in 2020, followed by giving by foundations. Giving by foundations will see the largest increase in 2021. Increases in contributions from individuals/households will be higher than increases in gifts made by corporations, which are more tepid.
  • Among the recipient subsectors, giving to health is projected to increase the most in 2020 and 2021. In 2020 and 2021, the health, education, and public-society benefit subsectors are expected to see giving rise above the 10-year, 25-year, and 40-year historical trends.

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Stress Test Analysis

For this edition of The Philanthropy Outlook, the report presents a stress test for 2020 and 2021, using conditions similar to the Great Recession of 2007-2009 to see how charitable giving would change compared with The Philanthropy Outlook’s results. This stress test analysis does not suggest that any potential new recession would be equivalent in severity and length to that of the Great Recession, rather, this analysis, which is modeled in part on the conditions used for the severely adverse scenario of the Dodd-Frank Act Stress Test (DFAST) for banks, serves a similar role as that of the DFAST—to ensure that organizations could continue to function under severely adverse conditions.5 Just as the results of the DFAST help banks to self-regulate and identify and address potential risks, this stress test analysis is intended to help nonprofits and fundraisers in a similar way.

This section draws on reports and academic research that explore how the landscape for charitable giving has changed since the Great Recession, and identifies lessons learned from the Great Recession that can help nonprofits and fundraisers make decisions about how resources might be best spent under recession conditions.

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Conditions That May Affect the Outlook for Giving

This section of the report includes additional information about long-term trends and conditions that may affect the outlook for giving.

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Methodological Overview

This section provides a high-level summary of our methodology for creating The Philanthropy Outlook forecasting model and producing the charitable giving estimates. Finally, the Limitations subsection describes the limitations of using scientific methodology to predict future giving outcomes.

For more detailed information about the methodology used in The Philanthropy Outlook, please view the Guide to the Philanthropy Outlook Model at

We hope The Philanthropy Outlook 2020 & 2021 offers helpful insight on the complex factors influencing the philanthropic environment and assists you in making important decisions for the future of your organization.

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