Take-Away: Charitable giving a major part of the American culture. The culture of giving has pretty much remained static over the last half century. However, it is the form of philanthropy which has greatly changed.

Background: The Urban Institute’s Centers on Nonprofits and Philanthropy released in mid-April its Giving Dashboard that provides an interesting overview of philanthropy (expansively defined) in this country, reporting numbers for 2020 (the first year of the pandemic.) This ‘study’ was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Some key statistics and numbers follow:

Total Charitable Contributions:  $475 billion

Total Share of Charitable Giving by Individuals: About 69%, or $325 billion

Total Noncash Itemized Charitable Giving by Individuals and Organizations:  $84 million

Volunteer Hours on Behalf of Charities: 8.41 billion hours; (25% of Americans volunteer in some capacity)

Total Giving by Bequest: $43 billion, or 9% of total amount given to charities

Political Giving- Number of Donors Who Gave over $200 to Political Campaigns: 5 million donors, $10 billion total ($2.5 billion given to WinRed; $4 billion to ActBlue)

Total Donor-Advised Fund Assets in Impact Investment Pools at Fidelity Charitable: $3.0 billion

Share of High-Net-Worth ($1.0 million in assets/annual income of $200,000) Households that Participate in Impact Investing: 14%

Total Amount of Recoverable Grants Made by Fidelity Charitable DAFs to Charities: $11.8 million

Total Value of Contributions Made to Donor Advised Funds: $48 billion

Total Number of Donor Advised Funds in the U.S.: 1 million

Total Dollars Distributed to Nonprofits from Donor Advised Funds at Community Foundations: $6.7 billion

Aggregate Charitable Contributions from Workplace Giving Programs: $4.0 billion (2017 is last number)

Share of All Donations, excluding grants, Made Online: 13%

Money Raised by Major Charity ‘Checkout’ Campaigns: $605 million

Charitable Contributions in the Form of Cryptocurrency to Fidelity Charitable: $330 million

Donor Retention Rate: 43.5%

Total Number of Giving Circles in the Global Giving Circle Directory: 2,900

Total Money Raised from GoFundMe Campaigns: $10 billion

Conclusion:  Over the past 40 years giving to 501(c)(3) charities as a proportion of an individual’s disposable income has stayed at pretty level of 2%. However, the form of philanthropy has dramatically changed over the years: e.g. donor advised funds; online crowdfunding; digital giving; impact investing; and qualified charitable distributions. In discussing charitable giving with clients, keep in mind that philanthropy is more than writing a check or including a bequest in a Will.