New report says donations up 4% in 2015

Chronicle of Philanthropy graphic Giving USA
Graphic from Chronicle of Philanthropy based on data from Giving USA.

The annual Giving USA study found that donations grew 4% in 2015, reaching the most amount in the history of the study – $373 billion. Here are some fast facts from the new report (with a little context and editorializing by us).

While giving was up by 4% in 2015, it was up by 6% in 2014. (Not as good. Still, an increase is important, no matter how incremental.)

While giving to religious groups only increased by 2.6 percent to $119.3 billion in 2015, they still receive the largest percentage of all giving every year. (Religious groups are still in a class by themselves in terms of giving. I’m looking for research as to how religious groups spend this money.)

Giving to “international affair” organizations had the highest increase, believed to be the result of high-profile humanitarian crises like the Syrian refugee crisis and the Nepal earthquake. (Traditional and social media helped raise the profiles of these events, something to think about when considering how much to invest in communications.)

Giving from living individuals grew 3.7 percent to $264.6 billion, 72 percent of total donations. (Again, year after year, the largest percentage of gifts come from individuals, not corporations [$18.5 billion in 2015] or foundations [$58.5 billion in 2015]).

Disposable personal income seems to have less of an effect on individual giving than do other economic indicators, like the stock market. (Maybe if people ‘feel’ like they can rely on future income to be steady, they’re more willing to give some of it away.)

The takeaways for Austin-area nonprofits:

  • Focus on individual giving. It’s the most reliable source of gifts year after year.
  • Invest more in marketing and communications. High-profile needs receive more donations.
  • Invest more in those communities that may be experiencing more hope for income stability. People coming into money are much more generous than those unsure about future wealth.

While the findings (and our advice) are pretty obvious, reports like Giving USA’s can lend credibility to your strategic plans. Learn more about the Giving USA report here.

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