If you want to know who gives philanthropically in the United States and to which organizations, the best source to turn to is Giving USA. Each year, this annual report looks at the total generosity in our country, where giving comes from, and key trends in philanthropy. This is worthwhile reading for those of us in Alaska because, even though we like to think of ourselves as being different, the information provided in Giving USA can be applied directly to working with donors in our state.
Overall, American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities in 2016, according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016, released in June.
Of particular interest is that individuals made up the largest source of philanthropy. Giving by individuals comprised 72 percent of total giving in 2016. If bequests and donations by family foundations are added to this picture, giving by individuals accounts for 88-89% of all giving.
What does that mean for nonprofits? In Alaska, while we have historically thought of going to corporations, foundations or the state for support, our needs to be placed increasingly on working with individual donors.
What about the downturn in our economy? Here, the national trends can be instructive as well. Nationally, total charitable giving has increased in current dollars every year since 1976, with the exception of three years that saw declines: 1987, 2008, and 2009, when stock markets were down.
Certainly, individuals are affected by a downturn in the market or less disposable income. The bright spot is that Americans (and Alaskans) are still generous even when times are tough.
For more information about giving trends, visit: As an example of the link between the economy and charitable giving trends, giving by individuals has historically correlated with changes in such national-level economic indicators as personal consumption, disposable personal income and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. All of these factors are associated with households’ permanent and long-term financial stability.
Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.