$471 Billion in American Philanthropy

  • 69% of that was given by individual donors.
  • 19% of that was given by foundations. For some background, foundations are non-profits that take donations from wealthy donors and usually invest them in hedge funds and private equity (both of which are usually unavailable to the public), and then each year, they donate a portion of their profit and/or some assets to charitable organizations.
  • 9% of the donations made in 2020 were through bequests. As someone who doesn’t see these numbers regularly, I found this to be surprising. 9% of $471 billion or $42 billion dollars came from folks who, upon their death, bequeathed or donated some or all of their estate — what they own, to charities they cared about. From my small experience, this type of giving is not focused on by grassroots/small/medium sized non-profits, mostly because we do not have the capacity to fund the labor needed to develop outreach and seek this type of donation. However, given the size of this number, I would suggest that folks who have donors loyal to their cause create an outreach plan and offer them an opportunity to give upon passing.
  • 4% of giving was from corporations. And this resonates with my experience with corporate giving. Talking to corporations and raising funds from them has always been really hard. The folks at corporations in the community support position often do not have a lot of money to give, and there has been, again from my limited experience, lots of turn-over in that position. And while we as non-profits really need unrestricted funds to do our best work, corporations are often looking to give other gifts like old computers and furniture or volunteer time. All of this is kind, and if you are not an organization that focuses on computer related services, like community coding classes, or senior tech classes, and so forth, these in-kind gifts are not as helpful as cash. I believe that corporations should give more. Otherwise, after expenses, profit goes to wealthy shareholders, who then have to be courted to give.

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