The Blackbaud Institute Index

Your Source for Charitable Giving Trends

As 2021 unfolds, the social good community is navigating uncharted territory. We have adjusted to the day-to-day realities of operating in a pandemic, yet we find ourselves on new ground. While we are hopeful about finding a new post-pandemic normal, uncertainty remains about what the future holds or when we can confidently resume activities. Still, organizations who continue to focus on goals steeped in tried-and-true best practices can ensure success into the future. The time is now to ensure teams do not become stagnant by identifying and continuing to adapt operations and strategies to meet the demands of today.

Strong leaders can re-energize their teams by intentionally making space for exploring new ideas and concepts. Doing so will foster a sense of enthusiasm and help teams see their momentum toward progress. But leaders should also hold time for reflecting on the strategies that helped them weather the past year, such as digital, that will continue to work—even as we chart further into 2021 and beyond.

The Blackbaud Institute Index offers data trends to help you understand the current landscape, as well as the context you need to leverage this as a benchmark against your own efforts. Data can help crystallize your understanding and offer insights on what the recent several months illuminate. We hope you can use this Index to gain confidence in your own planning. These insights should help recalibrate and reinvigorate you in fulfilling your mission over the next few months and beyond.

Tracking over $40 billion from over 8,500 organizations in US-based charitable giving, the Blackbaud Institute Index is updated each quarter and reports year-over-year percent changes as well as giving to date for the last 12 months. Featuring overall giving trends, the Index can be viewed by organization size and subsector.

For even more in-depth insights on how current and long-term trends can help you on the path ahead, read our newly released 2020 Charitable Giving Report published in February 2021, where you will find further unique data, information on how to benchmark yourself, and insights for many subsectors. Or, see our State of the Social Sector Series reports published in August 2020 that highlight the Arts and Culture, Faith Communities, Healthcare, Higher Education, and K-12 Education, and more.

Giving trend data is an invaluable tool, but it is only a retrospective that shows us what has already happened. Remember that charitable giving data is one facet of the philanthropic prism. Always track trends across your full revenue portfolio and target a sustainable funding mix in your long-term plans.

Numbers Overview

2021 Quarterly Overall Charitable Giving

Q1 2021 vs Q1 2020

1.1%

Last 12-Months

3.4%*

A look at year over year changes shows an overall increase of 3.4% over the last 12 months. As various factors continue to impact different subsectors in unique ways, organizations should also monitor their specific subsector trends. Check out the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more insight.

Additionally, charitable giving experienced a 25.3% increase in online fundraising in the past 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

2021 Quarterly Overall Giving Trends by Organization Size

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

2.5%

Last 12 Months

-4.0%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased 2.0% compared to the previous year. Notably, small nonprofits continued to set the mark with 18.9% of total fundraising coming from online giving in 2020, the highest among all organization sizes. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, small nonprofits experienced a 4.0% decrease in overall fundraising and a 27.5% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-0.4%

Last 12 Months

0.8%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. Additionally, medium organizations, with total annual fundraising between $1 million and $10 million, received 10.1% of their total fundraising from online giving in 2020. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, medium nonprofits experienced a 0.8% increase in overall fundraising and a 30.3% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

1.6%

Last 12 Months

7.0%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. Additionally, large organizations, with total annual fundraising of more than $10 million, received 9.4% of their total fundraising from online giving in 2020. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, large nonprofits experienced a 7% increase in overall fundraising and a 18.2% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

2021 Quarterly Overall Giving Trends by Subsector

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-6.9%

Last 12 Months

-3.2%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount for Animal Welfare organizations was $272; the average online donation was $61. Animal Welfare organizations received 12.3% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, animal welfare organizations experienced a 3.2% decrease in overall fundraising and a 29.9% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

2.2%

Last 12 Months

-7.3%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to Arts and Culture organizations was $540; the average online donation was $66. Arts and Culture organizations received 9.9% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, arts and culture organizations experienced a 7.3% decrease in overall fundraising and a 4.0% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

1.5%

Last 12 Months

-3.1%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount for the Environment subsector was $715; the average online donation was $105. The Environment subsector received 8.1% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, environment organizations experienced a 3.1% decrease in overall fundraising and a 20.0% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

3.9%

Last 12 Months

2.5%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to Faith Communities was $298; the average online donation was $230. Faith Communities received 17.7% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, faith organizations experienced a 2.5% increase in overall fundraising and a 35.4% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-6.9%

Last 12 Months

5.2%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, foundations experienced a 5.2% increase in overall fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-7.7%

Last 12 Months

-4.2%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to the Healthcare subsector was $522; the average online donation was $403. The Healthcare subsector received 4.5% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, healthcare organizations experienced a 4.2% decrease in overall fundraising and a 10.4% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-4.0%

Last 12 Months

-3.6%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to Higher Education institutions was $1,671; the online giving average was $387. Higher Education institutions received 5.2% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, higher education institutions experienced a 3.6% decrease in overall fundraising and a 12.5% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

6.7%

Last 12 Months

16.0%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to Human Services organizations was $610; the average online donation was $225. Human Services organizations received 10.9% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, human services organizations experienced a 16% increase in overall fundraising and a 48.3% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-0.0%

Last 12 Months

-3.4%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to the International Affairs subsector was $450; the average online donation was $93. The International Affairs subsector received 7.4% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, international affairs organizations experienced a 3.4% decrease in overall fundraising and a 4.7% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-4.5%

Last 12 Months

-4.1%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to K-12 institutions was $1,278; the average online donation was $1,640. K-12 institutions received 13.5% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, K-12 schools experienced a 4.1% decrease in overall fundraising and a 11.7% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

-17.2%

Last 12 Months

-14.5%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to Medical research organizations was $1,162; the average online donation was $112. Medical research organizations received 8% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, medical research organizations experienced a 14.5% decrease in overall fundraising and a 25.4% decrease in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020

1.0%

Last 12 Months

4.9%

In 2020, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. The average donation amount to Public Society and Benefit organizations was $1,032; the average online donation was $241. Public Society and Benefit organizations received 6.6% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

In the past 12 months ending in March 2021, public and society benefit organizations experienced a 4.9% increase in overall fundraising and a 4.3% increase in online fundraising compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Navigating the Current Landscape

  • Consider how your organization has adapted to maximize digital engagement with supporters. As social distancing recommendations were enacted last year, organizations across all sectors were forced out of their comfort zones with digital marketing and engagement. Continue to embrace social media and digital platforms to connect with supporters. Staff should consider how they might continue to deliver and expand their newfound success across virtual programming and events, through such online platforms as Facebook Live. It is an opportunity to consider how you can continue to engage constituents across a myriad of channels.
  • Remember that donor retention remains one of the most essential factors in fundraising success. Donors give because they believe in the organization’s mission and believe their gift can make a difference. You should stay focused on communicating the continued value of your mission and stewarding your supporters. By this same token, supporters want to know how the organizations they care about are faring. You shouldn’t be afraid to be transparent with donors about challenges the organization is facing. Earnest communication about challenges allows donors to engage and rise to meet the need.
  • Stay connected across teams so you can respond with agility. While you may still be working remotely, it has never been more critical for all teams across your organization to stay in sync. Your capacity for embracing innovative solutions to new challenges will rely on your team’s ability to stay connected. Now is the time for leaders to focus on transparency and communication. If it isn’t already part of your regular cadence, consider incorporating emails or video updates from leaders to keep staff engaged and on the same page. Continue to focus on strong data management practices so that all teams can access the information they need.

See more in the Stories of Resilience sgENGAGE series.

The Blackbaud Institute Index provides nonprofit organizations the timely and precise information they need to help make better decisions. The 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.

While the numbers shown are updated quarterly, we must look at this data from a multi-year perspective to understand the full scope of giving trends. Since 2017, overall giving has grown by 5% and online giving increased nearly 10% in the United States.

As for online giving, it continues to be a growth engine for fundraising in the nonprofit sector and there is likely a symbiotic relationship between online and offline. In 2019, online giving grew 6.8% year-over-year and 8.7% of total fundraising came from online giving. This is on track with larger online trends, including e-commerce sales. Donor behavior is keeping pace with consumer behavior. To this point, with the proliferation of mobile phones, mobile is now the new normal. In 2019, an estimated 26% of online transactions were made using mobile devices1. With that said, the focus should be on delivering multichannel giving experiences for donors instead of online and offline working in silos.

How We Create the Blackbaud Institute Index

Each quarter, we draw actual giving statistics from the databases of thousands of U.S.-based participating organizations using various 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 exclude the value of goods and services provided in exchange for gifts (e.g., the cost of premiums). 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 in the Blackbaud Institute Index is categorized by 1 of 11 subsectors using its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities—or NTEE code—as reported on its 990-tax return. These subsectors are Animal Welfare, Arts and Culture, Environment, Faith-Based, Healthcare, Higher Education, Human Services, International Affairs, K–12 Education, Medical Research, and Public and Society Benefit. The Index also includes giving to Foundations, but this data is currently not used to calculate giving trends to avoid the potential of double-counting revenue.

We report the Index as a three-month moving median of year-over-year percent changes in giving. 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. We do this because an Index based on a moving median is less sensitive to campaign and event timing issues and will serve as a more practical decision-making tool. However, one downside of a moving median is that it can dampen large fluctuations caused, for example, by disaster relief giving.

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 Institute 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 Institute Index and Blackbaud Institute Advisory Board Member

We 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 United States, and we did not want the indices to be skewed by organizations or sectors where Blackbaud had greater representation. Using 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.

For More Information

Quarterly updates: To receive quarterly updates on the Index straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Source newsletter.

Questions: Contact us at info@blackbaudinstitute.com.
Press: For press and media inquiries, contact: media@blackbaud.com

Benchmarking: The Insight Track to Success

Listen to your data to transform your organization’s strategy. The Blackbaud Institute Index and Charitable Giving Report keep you aware of the trends, and now this guide offers practical strategies for using these resources to introduce benchmarking across your organization. Download the free guide or watch the video.