Tracking over $40B in charitable giving
The Number of Organizations Tracked by the Blackbaud Institute Index
Overall Giving Increase in 2020
Online Giving Increase in 2020
Executive Summary of Findings
In a year when a pandemic altered how we live, work, and give—combined with a call to address injustice and support equality—it was the light of giving that shone through. Despite an unprecedented number of challenges with people, politics, and a pandemic, Americans’ charitable giving grew in meaningful ways during 2020.
This year’s Charitable Giving Report will explore giving trends in what must be considered one of the most transformational years the social good sector has seen in a long time. The report leverages the largest data set of giving and donor trends to help organizations understand the past and prepare for the future.
In 2020, charitable giving in the United States grew by 2% based on a careful analysis of $40.7 billion in donations by the Blackbaud Institute. Additionally, an analysis of $3.2 billion in online donations tells us that online giving grew by 20.7% compared to 2019.
The overall and digital giving trends in 2020 would be considered quite remarkable in a typical year. But as we all know, 2020 was interrupted by dramatic global events, an economic rollercoaster, withering wildfires and other natural disasters, unprecedented strains on the healthcare system, surging social movements, and political uncertainty. Despite all these headwinds, the generosity of people rose to meet the multitude of challenges.
Looking back, there were a series of notable trends in 2020. During the first two months, overall giving and online giving continued to grow. But the acceleration of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) around the globe and the United States during March had a significant impact on giving. As schools went virtual, businesses adjusted operations, and organizations went remote, there was a measurable contraction in charitable giving.
Analysis of the data shows that, in April, May, and June of 2020, nonprofits of all sizes experienced a significant drop in charitable giving. Smaller nonprofits dropped more than 17% compared to the same period of 2019. But the importance and resiliency of giving began to recover during the second half of 2020. It may not have felt like it, but giving recovered in many remarkable ways.
During the ups and downs of 2020, it was online giving that kept climbing higher. It was online giving that, once again, showed its importance as the first response channel of choice for donors. During the sharpest lows of overall giving, the data shows that online giving was reaching the highest peaks. Online giving was up 36% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. The double-digit growth trend continued through the rest of 2020.
2020 was also the year that online giving eclipsed an important milestone. Even before the first edition of this report, the Blackbaud Institute measured the percent of overall giving from online donations. Over the years, it has been one of the most requested statistics. In 2020, 13% of fundraising came from online donations—and this is the highest level ever measured. This mirrored similar trends in online retail sales during 2020. It is a significant next step as digital fundraising continues to be an integral part of the modern nonprofit’s strategy.
For several years, the Charitable Giving Report has tracked many key metrics. 2020 was a year of growth in a multitude of ways. The average gift amount increased from $617 to $737 in 2020. The average online gift amount also increased from $148 in 2019 to $177 in 2020. Donor retention rates also showed improvement for the first time in many years. As social good organizations faced many challenges, there was an inspiring response from donors.
About the Charitable Giving Report
The U.S. report’s findings are based on giving data from 8,833 nonprofit organizations, totaling $40.7 billion in fundraising revenue. The online fundraising findings are based on data from 4,964 nonprofit organizations and $3.2 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 U.S. 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 390 Canadian organizations, with more than $950 million in giving. We track £310 million from approximately 300 organizations in U.K.-based charitable giving. And, we track nearly $550 million from more than 150 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.
- Steve MacLaughlin, Vice President, Product Management, Blackbaud and Senior Advisor, Blackbaud Institute
- Emily Perrotti, Data Analyst, Blackbaud
- Ashley Thompson, Managing Director, Blackbaud Institute
- Angele Vellake, Data Scientist, Blackbaud
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, I.T., 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.
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