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On June 16, 2020, the Giving USA Foundation (Foundation) released “Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019” (Giving USA). The Foundation acknowledged as it drafted the 2019 giving results that the nation continues to struggle through two monumental events—the COVID-19 pandemic and calls and protests seeking social justice. Giving USA notes that while it’s too soon to know how giving ultimately may fare in 2020, this report provides a helpful baseline for understanding where giving stood at the outset of the current crisis. The information provided by Giving USA’s decades of data intends to provide insight and context in uncertain times to help fundraisers, nonprofit leaders, donors, and others identify factors that will play a role in shaping giving going forward.

Giving reached the largest dollar total to date in 2019, when measured in current dollars, totaling $449.64 billion. This represented an increase of 4.2 percent over 2018. Three of the four major categories of giving—individuals, foundations, and corporations—realized growth in contributions, while giving by bequest remained flat compared to 2018. 

In addition, Giving USA reports on U.S. giving patterns and trends and provides a benchmark for measuring annual fundraising efforts, encouraging readers and organizations to use the gathered information and insights to refine their fundraising efforts and understand how economic giving trends correlate by giving source. Below are trend summaries from Giving USA.

Where Did the Contributions Come from?

Consistent with historical trends, giving from individuals accounted for the vast majority of giving in America in 2019. Giving by individuals has grown in four of the last five years.

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Where Did the Contributions Go?

Religious organizations continue to be the largest recipient of charitable contributions, accounting for 29 percent of total giving in 2019. The education, public-society benefit, arts, culture and humanities, and environment/animal sectors realized double-digit growth in 2019.

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Behind the Numbers


In current dollars, individual giving as a percent of disposal income totaled 2 percent for 2019, which was consistent with 2018. From 1979 to 2019, this percentage has ranged from a low of 1.7 percent in 1995 to a high of 2.4 percent in 2005. In 2019, disposable income increased by 4.3 percent compared to 2018, which is important to consider, as how much a household gives often depends on its disposable income. 


Giving by all three types of foundations included within the Giving USA report increased when compared to the prior year. Giving by independent foundations, operating foundations, and community foundations increased by 2.2 percent, 1.3 percent, and 5.6 percent, respectively. Giving USA estimates that giving by family foundations constitutes 64 percent of giving by independent foundations. 


The 13.4 percent growth in contributions by corporations represents the largest reported year-over-year increase. Corporation giving includes contributions through corporate giving programs as well as grants made by corporate foundations. In 2019, there was a 10.5 percent or $7.52 billion increase in corporate foundation grant making. 

Per Giving USA, in 2019 the U.S. gross domestic product increased by 4.1 percent, which is an economic indicator found to positively affect corporate giving.  

Other Giving USA Results

In 2019, the IRS reports the number of charitable organizations increased to 1.33 million, or a 3.2 percent increase over 2018 data. This number of charitable organizations grew steadily from 2005 to 2010 but declined between 2010 and 2011 due to the requirement of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 that nonprofits of all sizes, excluding religious organizations, file tax returns beginning in 2007. The number of charitable organizations has now surpassed the numbers seen in 2010. 

For more information, reach out to your BKD Trusted Advisor™ or use the Contact Us form below. In addition, you can order Giving USA to access a detailed analysis and insights.

All data in this article is from Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, 2020, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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