Guide to Giving

Surveys Reveal Annual Giving in the USA

Thursday, 10th June 2010 at 10:11 am
Lina Caneva
Two major annual surveys on US Giving find overall donations are down but online giving is up despite the difficult economic times.

Thursday, 10th June 2010
at 10:11 am
Lina Caneva



Surveys Reveal Annual Giving in the USA
Thursday, 10th June 2010 at 10:11 am

Two major annual surveys on US Giving find overall donations are down but online giving is up despite the difficult economic times.

According to the results of the Annual Giving USA survey charitable giving fell 3.6 percent in 2009 but despite overall drop, some types of charities attracted more gifts during time of great need and for the third year, giving exceeded $300 billion.
Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, say that the estimated total charitable contributions from American individuals, corporations and foundations fell to $303.75 billion in 2009, down from $315.08 billion for 2008. 
Giving USA Foundation Chair Edith Falk says even in a time of enormous economic upheaval, Americans continued to be generous to charitable causes.
Falk says while overall giving declined, many donors—including individuals and foundations—made special efforts in 2009 to respond to greater humanitarian needs.
She added that, in addition to support from individuals and foundations, some Not for Profits received exceptional support from the corporate sector, which included billions of dollars’ worth of in-kind donations, particularly from information technology firms and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Giving USA has reported U.S. charitable contributions since 1956. 
Here’s a snapshot of the results:
  • Individual giving fell an estimated 0.4 percent in 2009, to $227.41 billion. Charitable bequests were estimated to be $23.8 billion, a decline of an estimated 23.9 percent in 2009.   
  • Foundation grantmaking by private, community, and operating foundations was $38.44 billion. It fell by 8.9 percent.
  • Corporate giving rose to an estimated $14.1 billion, up 5.5 percent.Researchers says that this unexepected bounce takes corporate giving to within 1 percent of its pre-recession level. 
  • Giving to religion, at 33 percent of total giving, remains the largest share of all contributions, with an estimated $100.95 billion. 
  • Giving to education declined to an estimated $40.01 billion, a drop of 3.6 percent in 2009 
  • Giving to foundations dropped to $31 billion, a decline of 8 percent 
  • Giving to human services is estimated to be $27.08 billion, an increase of 2.3 percent 
  • Giving for health also shows an estimated increase, to $22.46 billion, or growth of 3.8 percent 
  • Giving for public-society benefit organisations declined an estimated 4.6 percent 
  • Giving to arts, culture and humanities organisations dropped an estimated 2.0 percent 
  • Giving to international aid (which includes relief, development and public policy activities) increased an estimated 6.2 percent reaching $8.89 billion. 
  • Giving for environment/animal-related organizations rose 2.3 percent  to an estimated $6.15 billion. 
  • Giving to individuals includes grants from foundations to benefit named individuals. Most often, these are gifts of medications to patients in need and are made by operating foundations created by pharmaceutical manufacturers. These gifts are estimated to have remained relatively steady in 2009, at $3.5 billion or 1 percent of the total.
The annual Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Study reveals that online giving in the US however grew steadily despite the difficult economy. 
The study focused on key areas related to online success, including:
  • Website traffic and registration
  • Email file health
  • Online fundraising
  • Online communications
  • Advocacy
Key findings of the study include:  
Online giving grew 14 percent despite a difficult economy. Overall, 69 percent of organisations raised more in 2009 than 2008, while 31 percent saw declines in their online fundraising.
An increase in gifts drove fundraising gains. Of those that grew fundraising in 2009, 92 percent saw an increase in the number of gifts in 2009 compared with just 43 percent of organisations seeing an increase in their average gift amount.
Small organisations grew fastest. Organisations with fewer than 10,000 email addresses on file, grew online revenue by 26 percent, and gifts by 32 percent.
Web traffic growth continued for most, but at a slower rate. 60 percent of organisations grew their website traffic from 2008 to 2009. Web traffic growth in 2009 was in the single digits at 6 percent compared with double digit growth seen in previous years.
Web traffic was strongly correlated with email file growth. 38 percent of an organisation’s success building large email files could be directly attributed to the amount of traffic to the organisation’s website.
This year’s study analyzes data compiled from 499 Not for Profit organisations that have at least 24 months of data to compare. The study aggregates results into benchmarks that NFPs can compare against their peer group and the industry as a whole. 

The full Convio study is available at

The complete Giving USA 2010 report, with data covering 2009 giving is available at

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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