Giving by Estates


6.6 %


6.5 %

Giving by estates includes cash and non-cash donations (bequests) to U.S. charities contributed by all American estates—including those that itemize their charitable contributions on their estate taxes and those that do not.

Giving by estates is predicted to increase by 6.6% in 2020 and by 6.5% in 2021.viii

The amount that an estate bequeaths largely depends on asset health at the time of the donor’s passing. If the growth in assets held by estates slows, less will be given in the form of bequests.

The projections for giving by estates in 2020 and 2021 are above the historical 10-year, 25-year, and 40-year annualized average rates of growth for giving of this type.16

The factors that will most significantly and positively influence estate giving in 2020 and 2021 include:ix

  • Above average growth in the S&P 500, and
  • Average growth in household and nonprofit net worth in the preceding years.17

These two factors will account for the majority of the predicted growth in giving by estates in these years.

Giving by estates can vary greatly from year to year. This volatility is mostly due to very large bequests made by a few estates in a given year. Therefore, a significant increase one year will suppress the rate of growth in giving the following year. The projected increase in bequest giving in 2020 and 2021 will hold unless substantially large gifts are made in 2019 or 2020.

  • viii All growth rates are based on predictions for giving in inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars using 2019 as the base year. The Philanthropy Outlook projects the growth rates of variables into 2020 and 2021; predicted growth rates are compared with the variables’ historical 10-, 25-, and 40-year annualized means. See Table 1 for these data.
  • ix For the definition of these variables and their sources, see the “Variable Definitions and Sources” list in the Guide to the Philanthropy Outlook model at The Guide to the Philanthropy Outlook also includes information about the stability of the variables.