What’s Up With Giving?

Several newly released reports provide information on the state of charitable giving in America. Two widely followed reports, Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016 and 2016 Voluntary Support of Education, both reported record levels of charitable giving last year. A closer look reveals a few surprises.

Giving USA Results for 2016

Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016 estimates another record year for total giving from individuals, foundations, corporations and estates of $390 billion, up 2.7 percent from $373 billion in 2015. This increase in giving came during a year that saw ongoing improvements in the economy, job market, salaries and household net worth.

These economic trends reportedly helped fuel estimated giving by individuals to $281.86 billion, a 3.9 percent increase from 2015. Foundation gifts increased 3.5 percent to an estimated $59.28 billion. Corporate giving also increased 3.5 percent to an estimated $18.55 billion. Preliminary estimated bequest giving, however, fell 9 percent to $30.36 billion, following two years of strong growth, including a 27.7 percent increase in 2014. Giving to all major categories of recipients was up for 2016, only the sixth time this has happened in the past 40 years.

The entire report is available for purchase at givingusa.org.

2016 Voluntary Support of Education Results

The Voluntary Support of Education survey found that charitable giving to colleges and universities increased 1.79 percent to $41 billion, with the top 20 universities accounting for 27 percent of all gifts to higher education. The top 20 raised a total of $11.12 billion last year, slightly below the $11.36 billion they raised in 2015. Another surprise was that outright giving from individuals to higher education actually declined in 2016. Gifts from alumni fell 8.5 percent, and gifts from other individuals fell 6 percent. That slippage was made up by increased giving from corporations, foundations and other organizations. Charitable bequests to higher education amounted to $2.8 billion in 2016 and accounted for just over 18 percent of all individual giving. The present value of trusts and other deferred gifts was nearly $600 million, approaching levels not seen since before the Great Recession (see chart above).

Bequests and other deferred gifts accounted for more than 22 percent of all individual giving. The average number of realized bequests was 22 per reporting institution with an average value of $5.29 million. Mirroring much of charitable giving coming from the wealthiest donors, the top three bequests accounted for the majority of bequest revenue for most colleges and universities. Furthermore, gifts from corporations, foundations and donor advised funds increased dramatically.

For more information or to order the entire report, visit cae.org/vse-data-miner/vse-survey/vse-annual-publication.

Other Recent Charitable Research

Winter 2017 Nonprofit Fundraising Study, Nonprofit Research Collaboration

A study covering charitable receipts from nonprofit charitable organizations in 2016 in the United States and Canada.


  • Approximately 7 in 10 charities reached giving goals last year, down slightly from the previous year.
  • Two-thirds of U.S. charities predict growth in 2017.
  • 6 in 10 charities reported increased giving in 2016.
  • 6 in 10 reported an increase in planned giving revenue and commitments.

For more information, visit www.npresearch.org/images/pdf/2017_reports/NRC-W2017-FINAL.pdf.

Charitable Giving Report: Blackbaud Institute

The fifth annual Blackbaud Report on how nonprofit fundraising performed in 2016 based on $23 billion in total fundraising from 6,845 nonprofits.


  • Overall charitable giving increased 1 percent.
  • 7.2 percent of overall giving, excluding grants, was reportedly completed online.
  • A strong U.S. economy and increased consumer confidence had minimal impact on giving.
  • December remains the largest giving month of the year, followed by June.
  • The average age of donors in the U.S. was 62, and older people were more likely to give.

For more information, visit www.institute.blackbaud.com/asset/2016-charitable-giving-report. ■

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