The Blackbaud Institute Index

The Blackbaud Institute Index provides quarterly updates and in-depth analysis into giving trends. Tracking more than $30 billion in US-based charitable giving, the Index is updated each quarter and is based on year-over-year percent changes. Featuring overall giving trends, the Index can be viewed by size and subsets of the nonprofit industry.

A Message from Steve R. MacLaughlin, Blackbaud’s Vice President, Data & Analytics and Blackbaud Institute Senior Advisor

Nonprofit organizations need timely and precise information to help make better decisions. The Blackbaud Index provides both a broad-based view of what is happening across the nonprofit sector and in-depth analysis for different types of organizations. We are leveraging data intelligence to help the entire social good sector better understand key trends and insights.

Blackbaud is the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. Serving the entire social good community—nonprofits, foundations, corporations, education institutions, and individual change agents—Blackbaud connects and empowers organizations to increase their impact through software, services, expertise, and data intelligence. We felt that if anyone could take on this ambitious project, we could!


“Economic conditions, natural disasters, and market fluctuations have made it extremely difficult for nonprofits to make fundraising decisions informed by the latest donor behavior. That is why we created The Blackbaud Index — to provide insight into what happened in the prior quarter and valuable analysis by leaders in the sector into what fundraisers can learn from it.”

– Chuck Longfield, Founder of Blackbaud Index and Blackbaud Institute Senior Advisor

How we create the Index

Each quarter, we draw actual giving statistics from the databases of thousands of US-based participating organizations using a variety of fundraising systems to determine how much revenue was raised. We include giving from all sources of fundraising activities: direct mail, telemarketing, face-to-face fundraising, email, online, mobile giving, small- and large-scale events, and major and deferred giving.

We do not include the unfulfilled portion of pledge gifts, but we do include the donated value of in-kind and stock gifts. We include giving from individuals, corporations, and foundations but do not include giving by individuals or corporations to private and community foundations or other intermediaries. To include these gifts would double count the revenue when those organizations subsequently make grants to other nonprofits. We do not currently exclude the value of goods and services provided in exchange for gifts (e.g., the cost of premiums) but hope to in the future. And lastly, we do include adjustments made to gifts (e.g., bounced checks and refunds) to provide a more accurate accounting of real revenues. As a result, you may find that indices values change slightly, as we obtain newly-adjusted data from each organization.

Each organization is then categorized by one of eight sectors using its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE code) as reported on its 990-tax return. These sectors are Arts and Culture, Animal Welfare, Environment, Faith Communities, Foundations, Healthcare, Human Services, Higher Education, International Affairs, K-12 Education, Medical Research, and Public and Society Benefit.

We report the Index as a three-month moving median of year-over-year percent changes in giving. What exactly does this mean? Each month, we add up all giving for the prior three months and compare this total to the same three months one year earlier to calculate the annual percent change for each organization in our index. Why do this? Many organizations have big campaigns (events or mailings) that occur at roughly the same time each year. However, if an event was in late April one year but early May the next, the change in monthly giving might be significant while the change in giving over a three month period might actually be the same. An index based on a moving median is less sensitive to these small timing issues and will serve as a more practical decision-making tool. However, one downside to a moving median is that the “smoother” index will dampen large fluctuations caused, for example, by disaster relief giving.

We also adjust the indices to be representative of the nonprofit industry, by size of organization and by industry sector. There are nearly 2 million nonprofits in the country, and we didn’t want the indices to be skewed by organizations or sectors where Blackbaud had greater representation. Using the 990 data, we determined the relative representation of giving by size and sector and adjusted our results accordingly. As such, the resulting indices will be more representative of both specific sectors and the industry.


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