Year-over-Year Overall Giving
In 2021, overall charitable giving increased 9% on a year-over-year basis.1 According to the Charitable Giving Report, this marked an increase in charitable giving for multiple consecutive years. The overall and online giving trends in 2021 would be considered quite remarkable in a typical year. But as we all know, 2021 continued to face interruption from COVID-19 and its ongoing unpredictability. Despite these headwinds, the generosity of people rose to meet the multitude of challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Taking a longitudinal view of giving trends helps provide a more representative perspective of what is happening with charitable giving in the United States. A three-year view of fundraising from the same organizations revealed a 19% growth in overall giving.
Philanthropy Through Recession
Every recession is unique and shaped by a different mix of economic, political, environmental, and social influences. As you consider the implications of recession on your organization, note that most recessions over the last 40 years have not significantly impacted the sector. Adjusted for inflation, giving increased by over $300 billion between 1979 and 2021. Total charitable giving has increased or stayed flat in current dollars every year since 1979, except for three years that experienced significant economic declines: 1987, 2008, and 2009. As our new report shows, that while the impact of recessions on giving trends is evident, in the long run giving continued to rise.
One reason for this is that most charitable giving in the United States comes from individuals with high net worth. The S&P 500 is the strongest indicator of wealth and, therefore, a direct correlation to high-net-worth giving. Yet, while giving follows the general up- and downward trends across time, it typically lags behind stock market volatility by about two years, effectively shielding philanthropy against short-term fluctuations.
External factors can affect different industry subsectors in diverse ways. During The Great Recession of 2008, many subsectors saw decreases in giving. Yet, with a heightened need to access social services, healthcare, and scholarships, donors rose to the occasion by funding those causes. Today, as philanthropy continues to respond to the unique impacts of COVID-19 and the major social movements of the last couple of years, it remains too early for recent market volatilities to be felt related to giving.
The full report illustrates the numerous possible impacts that recessions can have on the philanthropic sector. Informed by historic trends and research, we offer insights you can leverage to inform your ongoing multi-pronged strategy. Included are seven steps that you can take today to recession-proof your organization, covering topics from focusing on donor retention, embracing digital strategies, investing in a sustained giving program, and more.
Overall Giving by Organization Size
Fundraising by large organizations, with total annual fundraising of more than $10 million, was up 9%. Medium-sized organizations, with total annual fundraising between $1 million and $10 million, had an increase of 8.5% on a year-over-year basis. Small nonprofits, with total annual fundraising less than $1 million, experienced a 9.2% increase in fundraising results compared to 2020.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Online Giving by Organization Size
Overall Giving by Month
A look at giving trends by month shows that December remains the largest month for giving across the year. In December 2021, 20.1% of all gifts were donated; June 2021 was the second highest month for giving with 9.6% of all gifts donated.
2021 was a continuation of multi-year trends in monthly giving patterns. October, November, and December continue to represent 37% of charitable giving, which has been true for many years now. While December remains the largest month as a percentage of giving, June continues to drive giving due to end-of-fiscal year fundraising campaigns.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Online Giving by Month
Overall Giving by Subsector
According to the Charitable Giving Report, Environment organizations had the largest growth in overall giving in 2021, growing by 19.3%. All subsectors experienced growth in 2021, with five of the subsectors experiencing double-digit growth compared to 2020. As with overall giving trends, an examination of longitudinal trends can yield even greater context for these numbers. Across the last three years, nonprofit organizations in the Human Services, Environment, and Animal Welfare subsectors experienced the best three-year trend performance.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Online Giving by Subsector