President's Perspective Blog

Knowing the Numbers, Understanding the Landscape


Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the most important social justice movement in decades, we all know that fundraising has to go on. Our work has changed dramatically, but its importance has not.

In fact, judging from my conversations with members, the importance of our work has only magnified—not just because of the needed funds we raise, but because of the opportunity for connections we create with donors and supporters, many of whom have been isolated for so long and want to feel a part of the incredible change happening in our world.

I’m reminded of the importance and impact of our work with the release of Giving USA 2020 last week, showing details of how much giving occurred last year. Individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $449.64 billion to U.S. charities in 2019. Total charitable giving rose 4.2% measured in current dollars (2.4% adjusted for inflation) over the revised total of $431.43 billion contributed in 2018.

What was most interesting to me was giving by individuals, which totaled almost $310 billion. While giving by individuals is always, by far, the largest sources of contribution, 2019 marked just the second time that such giving accounted for less than 70% of overall total giving. Clearly, we’re seeing other sources of funds expand, while at the same time, many individuals are likely creating family foundation to use to make gifts. So, there’s some interesting changes happening in where charitable contributions originate.

There’s more research to peruse as well. Just today, AFP released the 2020 First Quarter Report of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, and the news isn’t quite as positive. Giving was down six percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the first quarter of 2019. Of course, giving totals so early in the year are not indicative of what might happen throughout the year, especially with the all-important fourth quarter and the “giving season.” But it’s tough to start the year already behind, and we may see even greater declines in the second quarter when charities felt the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy.

Finally, later this week, we’ll be releasing the U.S results of our Coronavirus Response Survey. As you might expect, there’s some tough numbers and pessimism in the results, but the sky isn’t necessarily falling either.

Information is king, and the more we have, the more we can navigate the fundraising landscape more confidently. And that’s critical as our organizations, and the people who rely on our causes, need our work and impact even more!

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18 Jan 2021 President's Perspective Blog
11 Jan 2021 President's Perspective Blog
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