40 Years of Giving in the USA: 3 Trends Identified

August 21st, 2013

If you aren’t subscribed to “RISE“, the independent Schools newsletter issued by Alexander•Haas, then chances are you missed the current post by Sandra Kidd. She reports on “the latest report, in Giving USA 2013, …. on charitable trends in 2012… examining overall giving trends for the 40-year period stretching from 1972 through 2012.”

Here are her summaries of 3 key trends/lessons from which we can all benefit by understanding and then applying to our own strategies:

  1. Gifts from individuals dominate American giving. In 1972, individual giving, from donors and donor bequests, comprised 89 percent of all giving. In 2012, it was 80.5 percent. In other words: Eight out of every 10 dollars come from individuals. Lesson one learned: If you and your development team are not spending about 80 percent of your time focused on working with prospective individual donors, then this is a good time to reexamine where you put your time – and the results.
  2. Gifts from foundations, as a percentage of all gift dollars, has more than doubled. Foundation giving was 6 percent in 1972 and stood at 14 percent in 2012. Fueling this growth in recent years: the number of high net worth individuals who are channeling their giving to personal or family foundations, community foundations, and donor advised funds. Lesson two learned: Typically, you can’t sit back and fill out grant applications to reach these sources of funds. You still have to get out of the office and meet people. See lesson number one.
  3. There were 1,081,891,501 registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in the United States at the end of 2012 – and that doesn’t count religious organizations (which receive 1 out of every 3 gift dollars). Lesson three learned: That’s a lot of organizations looking for charitable dollars. So while American donors are generous – collectively, they and the corporations and foundations they represent gave away $316.23 billion in 2012 – the sheer number of charitable organizations means steep competition for your school. You and your Board have to keep a keen competitive focus to achieve and sustain lasting fundraising results.


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