Highlights From the 2016 Annual Report on Philanthropy

Vol. 14 No. 10

development eletter Vol14 No10 statistics

Every year, the Giving USA Foundation publishes one of the most highly regarded reports on philanthropic giving in the United States, offering organizations of all sizes and missions a benchmark set of data against which to evaluate their own advancement efforts. While every school’s Development Office faces unique challenges in donor cultivation, the Annual Report on Philanthropy offers interesting food for thought when considering the broader giving landscape.

Personal Generosity

Individual contributions have always been and continue to be the biggest source of donated dollars, comprising a whopping 71% of all charitable giving in the United States for 2015. (Various foundation gifts were the next highest at 16%.)

For schools, this statistic continues to demonstrate that continued investment in all of your community stakeholders—no matter how small—should lead to the largest cumulative source of donation dollars. Reaching out to more formal institutions like foundations may help temporary cash flow problems, but these sources pale in comparison to the potential resources in a dedicated school community.

In fact, the Annual Report on Philanthropy found that while charitable giving increased from 2014 to 2015, 67% of that increase was due to the increase in individual giving by $9.77 billion. Two-thirds of the overall increase in philanthropic giving was driven by private, individual contributions.

Educational Giving Growing, While Religious Giving “Held Firm”

Giving to educational institutions has risen by 5% in four out of the last five years. In fact, from 2014 to 2015, giving to education rose by almost 9%. The only category that experienced a higher growth rate was international aid organizations at an incredible 17.5%—a sector that had previously been in decline for two consecutive years.

The trend of higher educational giving isn’t a total surprise, as it could reflect the growing public dialogue of the future of state-funded education and the subsequent adoption of charters as semi-sponsored government entities. Still, it means that community members are more likely than ever to consider educational programming worthy of their donation dollars.

For those schools that are religiously affiliated, there’s cautiously optimistic news. The Annual Report on Philanthropy noted that while religious giving has steadily decreased over the years, that sector is still far and away the largest proportion of donated dollars. Thirty-two percent of all 2015 donated funds in the US were earmarked for religious purposes and institutions—a modest increase of 2.7% from 2014—followed by education at 15%. So, while growth doesn’t seem incredibly fast at the national level, it’s not dropping.

Unorthodox Gifts Seemingly Profitable

Finally, the Annual Report on Philanthropy discussed donors’ propensity to offer gifts of “appreciable assets” (like paintings, statues, manuscripts, and rare books) to charitable organizations in 2015. The market for art items experienced a boom in 2014 through 2015, which meant such gifts may have offered substantially increased returns for the organizations to which they were donated.

This finding suggests that it might be wise to take a look at your school’s policies for such “appreciable assets” that are hard to quantify (and even harder to offer donors receipts for tax purposes). Your school may find that the profit from such items outweighs the headache and hassle of quantifying their value.

However, be warned that the value of such “appreciable assets” fluctuates greatly from year to year. 2014-2015 was hot for the art market, but there’s no way to know if it’ll stay active in the years to come—or if today’s prices realistically represent tomorrow’s profit. They represent a gamble on an investment, which may be why donors desire to “offload” these items onto your school for someone else to deal with.

Again, as every school’s mission and community is unique, we don’t expect for every point on this report to be relevant for your school’s advancement efforts. However, the Annual Report on Philanthropy offers us some fascinating data points to consider while we plan for next year’s campaigns and initiatives.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Development Directors Vol. 14 No. 3 What Defines a Major Gift?
The Source for Development Directors Vol. 13 No. 6 Legacy Donors: Local Janitor Leaves $8 Million to Hospital, Library—and No One Knew

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 29 No. 7 Your School's Annual Report: A Strategic Financial Plan Reporter and Institutional Promoter
I&P Vol. 41 No. 1 Assessing Your Development Operations: How Do You Score?
I&P Vol. 31 No. 5 Large Non-Cash Gifts: Donations of Real Estate

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