President's Perspective Blog

Seeing the Big Picture: Giving USA 2022

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Have you seen the latest Giving USA numbers for the year 2021? If not, you can read about them here and here (the latter includes a quote from yours truly ... just saying!).

The data is straightforward, but I think there are a few points worth sharing.

First, while we were expecting inflation to hit this year, it definitely impacted giving in 2021. Overall giving increased to a record $484.85 billion in 2021, which represents 4% growth from 2020. However, when adjusted for inflation, giving actually decreased by 0.7%.

Those numbers align with what we saw from the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project earlier this year, which estimated that giving grew by 2.7% in 2021 (the figures from both surveys were very similar for 2020 as well). So, the Giving USA data was not a huge surprise, but the impact of inflation was greater than what we had anticipated for the past year.

Second, the data also underscores just how tremendous giving was in 2020 (which is another reason why the growth in 2021 probably wasn’t as significant either). Just like the FEP did, Giving USA looked at the growth in giving over the two years from 2019 to 2021, since 2020 was such an outlier. Giving increased over that time frame by 13.8% (the FEP estimated 11%) overall, or 7.4% when adjusted for inflation.

That’s a lot of numbers but the point is that because giving grew significantly in 2020, the growth rate was bound to decrease in 2021, even before accounting for inflation.

Third, and this might be the most important point (because inflation, as impactful as it right now, is also short-term - though sure doesn’t feel short term right now, does it?), individual giving continues to decrease as a percentage of overall giving. Individual giving accounted for 67% of overall giving in 2021, whereas a decade or two ago it accounted for roughly 80% of all giving.

Now, of course, people are giving differently, and many are giving through foundations and donor advised funds. The transition to those giving vehicles account for some of the change.

However, I continue to think about the 2020 Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Study which found a significant drop in the number of American households participating in giving—from roughly 66% in 2000 to about 50% in 2018.

At the same time, Giving USA reports that the annualized average rate of growth in total giving in current dollars since 1981 is 5.6 % (or 2.7% when adjusted for inflation). The figures for 2021 are lower in both cases, and that, combined with the Lilly Family School numbers above, should be very concerning.

Given all this data, what can fundraisers do? I’m going to talk about that more in a future message, but here are a couple of opportunities in the meantime:

  • First, AFP is partnering with the Giving Institute to hold a free webinar for members this week (Wednesday, June 29) about the data and what fundraisers can do looking ahead. You can register for it here (and participants will get a discount on Giving USA products).

 

  • Second, AFP has just launched our latest Fundraising Confidence Survey which looks at how fundraising is faring so far in 2022. I encourage you to complete the survey (it should take about seven minutes), so you can provide your perspective on what’s happening with your fundraising efforts and offer any guidance and advice you’d like to provide to your colleagues. You can take the survey here.

 

This will be a challenging year for fundraising, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be successful. As I’ve noted before, our past surveys and interviews with members always point to one key factor: what you do as a fundraiser has the most impact on your organization’s fundraising. You are NOT at the mercy of inflation and the economy. Let’s stick with our plans, modify as necessary based on the data we have, perform your due diligence, and take action.

Be sure to participate in the webinar and survey above, and as always, email me (Mike.Geiger@afpglobal.org) or connect with me on Twitter (@AFPMikeGeiger).

 

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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