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Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018
Americans gave $427.71 billion to charity in 2018 during a complicated year for charitable giving
Shaped by a mixture of counteracting economic and policy factors,
total contributions grew 0.7% in current dollars, declined 1.7% adjusted for inflation

Editor’s Note:
If you live in the Greater Kansas City area, please join Byrne Pelofsky + Associates, LLC, Bank of America and Nonprofit Connect for 14 Years of Giving USA in Kansas City. This special presentation of Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018 will be held this Friday, June 21, at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Registration and a light breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m.; the program will begin at 7:50 a.m. Register here.

“It is remarkable that, despite numerous and new variables creating an extremely complicated charitable giving climate in 2018, American individuals, foundations and corporations continued their extremely generous support of philanthropy,” says Jeffrey Byrne, Co-Founder and CEO of Byrne Pelofsky + Associates. “Last year was one of the most complex environments for giving, with changes in tax policy and a volatile stock market that counteracted a relatively strong economy. The biggest impact was felt among the wide range of households that make up individual giving and more than two-thirds of all giving.”

A number of factors in the economic and public policy environments may have affected donors’ decisions in 2018, shifting some previous giving patterns. The overall U.S. economy was relatively strong in 2018, lifted by the robust performance of many of the economic factors that affect giving, such as a 5.0% increase in disposable personal income and 5.2% growth in the GDP (both in current dollars.) Yet the stock market decline in late 2018 may have had a dampening effect. The policy environment also likely influenced some donors’ behavior. One important shift in the 2018 giving landscape is the drop in the number of individuals and households who itemize various types of deductions on their tax returns. This shift came in response to the federal tax policy change that doubled the standard deduction. More than 45 million households itemized deductions in 2016. Numerous studies suggest that number may have dropped to approximately 16 to 20 million households in 2018, reducing an incentive for charitable giving.

Contributions from individuals and their bequests were not as strong as in 2017 while giving by foundations and corporations experienced healthy growth. The strong growth in giving by foundations and by corporations helped bolster total giving overall in 2018.

The Numbers for 2018 Charitable Giving by Source:

Giving by individuals totaled an estimated $292.09 billion, declining 1.1% from 2017 (a decrease of 3.4%, adjusted for inflation).

Giving by foundations totaled an estimated $75.86 billion, increasing 7.3% over 2017 (an increase of 4.7%, adjusted for inflation).

Giving by bequest totaled an estimated $39.71 billion, remaining flat with a 0.0% increase over 2017 (a 2.3% decline, adjusted for inflation).

Totaled an estimated $20.05 billion, increasing 5.4% over 2017 (an increase of 2.9%, adjusted for inflation).

Highlights about Charitable Giving by Source:

  • Giving by foundations had a record-breaking year, reaching its highest-ever dollar amount even when adjusted for inflation, and growing to its largest share (18%) of total giving to date in 2018.
  • Giving by individuals decreased as a percentage of total giving in 2018 to 68% (down from 70% in 2017), despite achieving its third-highest total dollar amount on record, adjusted for
  • Giving by corporations experienced solid growth in 2018. This type of giving is highly responsive to changes in corporate pre-tax dollars and GDP, and its year-over-year trend lines tend to be more turbulent as a
  • Giving by bequest did not keep pace with inflation

Despite declines in 2018, many subsectors experienced their second-best year for giving ever, when adjusting for inflation. Some groups are continuing to raise charitable dollars even as some donors are facing new giving conditions. “It is now extremely important for nonprofits to gain a clear understanding of the forces impacting their donor segments – individuals, foundations and corporations,” says Byrne. “We are now dealing with factors that are longer-term trends, as well as elements specific to 2018.”

The Numbers for 2018 Charitable Giving to Recipients:

Giving to religion totaled an estimated $124.52 billion, declining 1.5% from 2017 (a decrease of 3.9% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to education totaled an estimated $58.72 billion, declining 1.3% from 2017 (decreasing 3.7% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to human services totaled an estimated $51.54 billion, staying relatively flat, decreasing by 0.3% from 2017 (a decrease of 2.7% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to foundations totaled an estimated $50.29 billion, declining 6.9% from 2017 (declining by 9.1% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to health organizations totaled an estimated $40.78 billion, with flat growth of 0.1% over 2017 (a decline of 2.3% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to public-society benefit organizations totaled an estimated $31.21 billion, declining 3.7% from 2017 (decreasing 6.0% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to arts, culture, and humanities totaled an estimated $19.49 billion, staying relatively flat, increasing 0.3% over 2017 (declining 2.1% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to international affairs totaled an estimated $22.88 billion, increasing 9.6% over 2017 (an increase of 7.0% adjusted for inflation).

Giving to environment and animal organizations totaled an estimated $12.70 billion, increasing 3.6% over 2017 (an increase of 1.2% adjusted for inflation).

Highlights about 2018 Giving to Charitable Organizations:

  • Charitable sectors saw uneven growth in 2018 in current dollars, with two categories of recipient organizations growing, three categories staying relatively flat and four categories declining.
  • Some of the categories of charitable organizations that had declines in 2018, including giving to education and giving to foundations, experienced strong growth in 2017, even when adjusted for inflation. It is not unusual for strong growth in giving one year to be followed by slower growth or a decline in the following year, especially in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Giving to the public-society benefit subsector decreased in 2018 after eight years of consecutive growth. Similarly, giving to religion declined in 2018 after six years of slow growth and one year of flat growth in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2017.
  • Giving to human services, health, and arts, culture and humanities organizations stayed relatively flat in 2018 in current dollars and did not keep pace with inflation.
  • International affairs and environment and animal organizations were the two types of recipient organizations that experienced substantial growth in giving in 2018.

In addition, giving to individuals, which is 2% of total giving, is estimated to have declined 2.6% (4.9% in inflation-adjusted dollars) in 2018, to $9.06 billion. The bulk of these donations are in- kind gifts of medications to patients in need, made through the patient assistance programs of pharmaceutical companies’ operating foundations.

Unallocated giving was $6.53 billion in 2018. This amount can be considered the difference between giving by source and use in a particular year. It includes the difference between itemized deductions by individuals (and households) carried over from previous years. The tax year in which a gift is claimed by the donor (carried over) and the year when the recipient organization reports it as revenue (the year in which it is received) may be different.

“Since charitable giving is multi- dimensional and it is challenging to disentangle the degree to which each factor may have had an impact, it will take time for the philanthropic sector to more fully understand how donor behavior changed in response to these forces and timing,” says Byrne. “Now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to continue to monitor factors that influence charitable giving, educate Board members and stakeholders about the broad context of philanthropic giving and create sustainable relationships with your donors. Americans still give an average of more than $1 billion a day to help others. Americans are generous.  They want to give.  It’s up to nonprofits to listen to their donors and prospective donors – and be nimble in adjusting strategies to match their needs and expectations.”

Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

Download a copy of the pie charts for the sources and recipients of giving here.

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