Flat. That was the key message at the recent release of Giving USA Foundation’s Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2011.
In Atlanta, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to hear the findings first-hand from long-term Giving USA Foundation Board Member David King, CFRE, who also is President and CEO of one of the Southeast’s leading fundraising firms, Alexander Haas. In addition to highlights from the 2011 research, David shared his valuable insights at the Association of Fundraising Professionals breakfast presentation on the beautiful campus of Oglethorpe University.
In simple terms, the research conducted by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University compares US philanthropic activity year-over-year in an attempt to answer two basic questions:
- Where did the money come from?
- Where did it go?
In summary, total giving increased to $298 billion, up about $12 billion from 2010 levels. Giving by private, community and operating foundations increased slightly to $41.7 billion, representing 14% percent of total giving. Donations by corporations and corporate foundations fell a bit to $14.6 billion last year, holding fairly steady at 5% of total giving. Bequests were the only significant source of growth in donations last year, rising nearly 9 percent (adjusted for inflation) to $24.4 billion.
Giving USA has been reporting this research since the mid-1950’s. Keeping consistent with the vast majority of those years, the biggest gain was once again seen in individual giving. Assets from individuals – the combination of individual giving, bequests and family foundations – account for roughly 88% of all giving.
KEY TAKEAWAY #1 – BIG JUMP IN DONOR ADVISED FUNDS
Donations to foundations dropped by nearly 9 percent to $25.8 billion. That drop might not be as ominous for the future grant making organizations as it appears. One explanation to consider is that affluent people seem to be putting a lot of their money into donor-advised funds. The three biggest such funds had an average rise in donations of 77% last year, according to the research.
KEY TAKEAWAY #2 – GIVING TO RELIGION SLIDES FOR THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR
In general, there was little movement within the sectors and no new sectors were added. It should be noted that giving to Religious Organizations suffered the biggest drop, with donations down by nearly 5 percent. A major factor is the declining number of Americans (and in particular younger Americans) who belong to churches, synagogues or mosques. While giving to religious organizations is by far the largest single sector, this is the second year in a row where giving was down. This may be the beginning of a trend.
KEY TAKEAWAY #3 – INTERNATIONAL GIVING INCREASES
International Giving increased significantly making it the fastest growing subsector in 2011. Awareness and choice are likely working together to influence this growth. The abundance of technological advances allow for greater appreciation of international affairs by US consumers, and a number of new charities have recently entered this space.
Understanding the overall charitable landscape is far more complex than just looking at who is giving to what on an annual basis. Given the harsh realities of our volatile economic environment, I believe the slight annual growth (ok, nearly flat) is encouraging and an enduring reminder of how generous US donors can be to causes that continue to inspire them.