Trends in Charitable Giving

Published March 27, 2018
money and small plant in jar

Estate giving is passe, but mega-donors and politically motivated giving is in. These six trends are defining the nonprofit landscape in a major way.

Individuals Are Giving More

Giving USA, who publishes a yearly giving-by-the-numbers infographic says that individuals are giving more than ever before, (as compared to foundations, corporations, and estates). What's particularly interesting is that donations, on the whole, are smaller, meaning that more individuals are giving rather than mega-donors. This type of giving grew by a whopping four percent, which might not seem like much, but in the world of philanthropy, that is huge.

Angry People Give

It doesn't matter the cause; if the last couple of years have taught the world of philanthropy anything, it is that anger motivates giving. Rage giving is when someone is angry about a larger societal issue, like women's health, gun control, or immigration, and the person donates money to the cause because she or he feels like that's all they can do. Examples from 2017 and 2018 include a surge in donations to gun control groups, or the increased giving to both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU after the 2016 presidential election. Rage giving is a huge trend, and philanthropic giving watchers expect this to continue.

Environmental Causes Grow

While most charitable donations still go to religious organizations, statistics from Giving USA suggest that there is an upswing in donations to environmental groups. Giving to groups that conserve or support the environment increased by 7.2 percent, which is the largest increase in giving to any type of organization. Spurred in part by 'rage giving,' the administration's promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Control agreement has encouraged many people to donate to environmental causes. Popular organizations include The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Mega-Donors Sign Giving Pledge

The Giving Pledge has had a huge impact on philanthropy, as it is an invitation for billionaires to give away most of their wealth to charity. To date, the pledge has 175 members, with 14 new members joining this past year. Trend-watchers expect to see an increase in the list consistently over time. While there are not general statistics on where their money goes, many report that Super PACs are popular among the super-rich. Of the top 10 donors to the 2016 presidential elections, six were from the Giving Pledge.

The Refugee Crisis Drives Giving

Similar to rage giving, philanthropy watchers have noted that people are also responding to events like the Syrian Refugee Crisis. According to Fidelity Charitable, the International Rescue Committee saw a 22 percent rise in giving this past year. The International Rescue Committee responds to the needs of refugees throughout the world. Closely related, immigration organizations are also reporting an increase in support both in terms of volunteers and donations.

Corporate Giving Rises

Nonprofit Engage, a philanthropy trend-watcher, notes that corporations are starting to see philanthropy as key to their strategic business plans. As a result, corporate giving is on the rise. The big difference here is that while trends in individual giving tend to be towards causes that are in response to current events, corporations consistently invest in their communities. Top causes include education, health and social services, and community programs.

Trends on the Rise

Overall, people are giving more. The charitable donation landscape is seeing a surge of young, new, fresh philanthropic activists. Estate giving is decreasing whereas more money is being given by the average Joe. Grassroots organizations, particularly those that deal with current events issues, are on the rise and are likely to continue to climb with more calls to action by organizations that are going to want to continue to ride the wave.

Trends in Charitable Giving