Like many of you, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Giving USA numbers for 2013, with overall giving increasing by three percent, adjusted for inflation.
While previous versions of the study showed a steady uptick in giving over the past few years—as had other surveys, including the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s 2013 Year-End Fundraising Survey—few expected such a strong increase for the past year.
But look a bit deeper, and there are some troubling signs. As the Giving Institute (the publisher of Giving USA) noted, total giving was “given a lift by several very large gifts made by individuals, couples and estates in 2013.”
This trend mirrors what we’re seeing with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project—charities raising more money, but from fewer donors. And it explains a lot of what I’m hearing about from AFP members— who are reporting different and mixed experiences related to giving and economic rebounds.
There are two key reasons for this. One, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about giving after the Great Recession, and lower and middle-income donors probably aren’t comfortable enough yet financially to resume their traditional levels of giving. I think we’ll see those giving levels rise in the coming years.
But two, and more importantly, what we’re seeing is the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy. If that trend continues—and there’s no evidence so far to indicate it won’t—it could have a tremendous impact on philanthropy and fundraising.
I’d be interested in hearing your organization’s giving experiences so far in 2014 and what you think about the growing concentration of wealth.
And don’t forget, not only does AFP have a number of articles and resources related to Giving USA, but AFP members get a 30 discount on ordering Giving USA resources as well.