Individuals Drove U.S. Charitable Giving to New High in 2016

According to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, Americans set a new giving record in 2016, contributing $390.05 billion to a wide range of nonprofit organizations. This outcome is remarkable, if more modest than some anticipated, as there were fewer mega-gifts of more than $200 million and bequests dropped 9.0 percent in current dollars. While the 2016 growth rate in total giving—2.7 percent in current dollars—was below the five-year average, the results reflect broad-based philanthropic support in smaller amounts that culminated in a record year of giving.

“Although many expected stronger results, moderate charitable giving growth in a year with declines in mega-gifts and bequests is really something to celebrate,” notes Peter Fissinger, President & Chief Executive Officer of Campbell & Company. “American philanthropy is resilient, and the continued generosity of individuals and their commitment to mission-driven organizations is the main takeaway. 2016 is the third year of consecutive growth in U.S. charitable giving, and we will continue to help nonprofits build on this momentum and strengthen their philanthropic efforts.”

Key Findings

  • Between 2015 and 2016, giving by American individuals grew by 3.9 percent in current dollars. Individual giving totaled $281.86 billion and accounted for 72 percent of total giving in 2016. Notably, individuals made fewer mega-gifts in 2016 compared to recent years.

2016 contributions: $390.05 billion by source (in billions of dollars—all figures are rounded)

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  • In 2016, giving increased for all donor types except bequests. This decrease is not cause for alarm, as bequests are greatly influenced by the timing of estate filings and very large gifts.
  • All nine major subsectors recorded growth in 2016—a rare achievement that has only occurred on five other occasions in the past 40 years. Environment/Animals posted the greatest gains, which could be attributed in part to the current political environment.

Changes in giving by type of recipient organization, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2014-2016 (in current dollars)

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  • Six of the nine sectors recorded five-year growth above the five-year average growth rate in total giving, with International Affairs posting the highest growth, followed by Arts, Culture, and Humanities.
  • The distribution of charitable dollars between subsectors remained mostly unchanged, with a few small movements. International Affairs and Public-Society Benefit received a higher share of total giving in 2016, while Foundations received a slightly smaller share.

By publicizing these key findings, we hope to promote greater understanding of U.S. charitable giving and provide actionable insights that organizations can leverage for future success. We are hosting five events across the country and three webinars to expand the Giving USA conversation and discuss strategies for thriving in today’s philanthropic landscape. To learn more or RSVP, visit our events page.

Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy was released to the public at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. To purchase Giving USA materials, please visit www.givingusa.org and use code campbell to receive 30 percent off.