Executive Summary

Highlights

$46B+

Tracking over $46B in charitable giving

9%

Overall Giving Increase in 2021

42%

three-year increase in online giving

10%

INCREASE IN OVERALL AVERAGE GIFT AMOUNT YEAR OVER YEAR

In this section, you'll find

Executive Summary of Findings

Charitable giving continued to grow in 2021 in response to the ongoing needs associated with the pandemic. While the world adjusts to a new normal, the growth in giving exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations. Not only did both overall giving and online giving grow, but the average donor was more generous than ever. 

In 2021, charitable giving in the United States grew by 9% based on a careful analysis of $46.4 billion in donations by the Blackbaud Institute. Additionally, an analysis of $2.9 billion in online donations tells us that online giving grew by 9% compared to 2020.

The recovery of giving in late 2020 and the surge in online donations continued into 2021. Organizations of all sizes continued to grow despite ongoing challenges and increased needs. Donors increased their generosity with average gift amounts reaching new highs across the nonprofit sector.

In years past, it was common for overall giving and online donations to fall back to normal levels following major episodic events. That was not the case in 2021. Giving not only recovered but grew more than it has in a decade. Online giving also grew and remained near record highs across several metrics.

When we zoom out over three years, there are other positive trends taking place. Overall giving grew 19% and online giving grew 42% since 2019. Organizations with fundraising programs hard-hit by COVID-19 showed resilience and a return to growth in 2021 as well.

In 2020, 13% of fundraising came from online giving—a significant milestone in fundraising. In 2021, it hovered at 12%, and there are no signs of it turning back. Small, medium, and large nonprofits in the United States now raise more than 10% of their fundraising through online giving.

The nonprofit sector has shown a remarkable ability to adjust to the new normal. These positive fundraising trends show that change can be beneficial and adaptability is an asset.

“Charities of all sizes were rewarded for their resilience and donors were more generous than ever in 2021.”

Steve MacLaughlin, Vice President, Product Management, Blackbaud and Senior Advisor, Blackbaud Institute

About the Charitable Giving Report

The US report’s findings are based on giving data from 8,635 nonprofit organizations, totaling $46.4 billion in fundraising revenue. The online fundraising findings are based on data from 4,535 nonprofit organizations and $2.9 billion in online fundraising revenue.

Organizations were grouped into three size categories: total annual fundraising less than $1 million (small), total annual fundraising between $1 million and $10 million (medium), and total annual fundraising exceeding $10 million (large). It is based on recorded giving in each organization’s fundraising system, reported fundraising in IRS Form 990 data, and matching completed through the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

Organizations that did not meet all the research criteria have been excluded. Organizations based outside of the United States have also been excluded. We have not included the unfulfilled portion of pledge gifts or recurring gifts processed offline in our research. Giving USA® figures are used to weight the data to ensure that no individual organizations or subsectors are overrepresented in the analysis.

To be included in the analysis, these organizations needed to have at least 27 months of complete giving data without gaps or missing information. Each organization was then classified by subsector using its NTEE code, as reported on its Form 990. If you are unsure which subsector your organization falls under, you may refer to your 990 to find your NTEE code. Visit the National Center for Charitable Statistics for a complete list of subsectors.

The Blackbaud Institute Index has also grown to include additional data sets in other geographic regions. In addition to the US Index, we have included a section to provide information on Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia/New Zealand. For our Canadian Index, we analyze approximately 305 Canadian organizations, with more than $669 million in giving. We track £223 million from approximately 260 organizations in UK-based charitable giving. And, we track approximately $286 million from more than 100 organizations in Australian and New Zealand-based charitable giving. The Blackbaud Institute Index is updated for each of those regions each quarter and reports year-over-year percent changes and giving to date for the last 12 months. 

Contributors

  • Steve MacLaughlin, Vice President, Product Management, Blackbaud and Senior Advisor, Blackbaud Institute
  • Emily Perrotti, Data Analyst, Blackbaud
  • Ashley Thompson, Managing Director, Blackbaud Institute
  • Lindsey Salmony, Content Manager, Blackbaud Institute

For quarterly insights, see the Blackbaud Institute Index and sign up to receive quarterly updates via The Source.

How to Use a Benchmark

It’s easy to lose sight of the ways you can shift your strategy to reach big-picture goals. Benchmarking is a practice that gives you a higher-level view of your performance to achieve those goals. Using trend data from resources like the Charitable Giving Report, you can assess how your organization is performing compared to your peers and identify where your organization may have strengths and opportunities. As you launch into the new year and examine your approach, benchmarking is a powerful strategy that can help you target even more successful outcomes.

To embrace this as a tool in your work, keep these tips in mind:

  • Stay focused on the macro level: While short-term performance metrics may be tempting, you can benefit even more by taking a step back and examining long-term trends in your data. By reviewing your performance year over year, you can pinpoint shifts due to campaigns, events, seasonal occurrences, and more. All this data arms you with a greater understanding of the factors affecting your performance and how you can compare your metrics to a benchmark.
  • Work inclusively to identify shared benchmarking goals across your organization: Incorporate diverse voices into your conversations. Benchmarking should not be limited to your fundraising team. By including leaders from finance, IT, programs, and leadership teams, you can gain a holistic view of the shared goals across your organization and ensure that you are all tracking toward the same objectives.
  • Stick with a common set of metrics: While your goals may vary from year to year, it’s important that you remain consistent in the metrics that you measure. From looking at your annual retention rate to how much you raised through online giving, ensure that the metrics you select can be regularly and uniformly collected to easily compare trends across longer spans of time.
  • Listen to your data and let it guide you: Benchmarking is only valuable if you understand your findings and tweak your strategy accordingly. Be prepared to accept where you are underperforming. Adjustments in strategy are often best facilitated with team buy-in, and leadership can play a key role in getting staff on board. Educate your team on the importance of data collection and benchmarking so they can support this effort from where they sit.

“The data trends in this report go beyond tables and charts—they provide an opportunity for organizations to make informed strategic decisions for their mission.”

Ashley Thompson, Managing Director, Blackbaud Institute

Download the Charitable Giving Report

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Where to next?

Year over year, the Charitable Giving Report found an increase in giving.

In this section, you'll find:

  • Overall Giving Trends by Size
  • Profiles of the Average US Donor
  • Overall Giving Trends by Subsector
  • Overall Giving Trends by Month
Read More

Learn more about how online giving performed last year.

In this section, you'll find:

  • Online Giving Trends by Size
  • Fundraising from Online and Mobile Giving
  • Online Giving Trends by Subsector
  • Online Giving Trends by Month
Read More

Get a glimpse into how international giving trended in 2021.

In this section, you'll find:

  • Canada Giving
  • United Kingdom Giving
  • Australia/New Zealand Giving
Read More