Early Analysis Shows 2021 A Record Year for Charitable Giving

The Blackbaud Institute’s “2021 Charitable Giving Report,” released in mid-February, indicates overall charitable giving in the United States rose 9% from 2020 to 2021 — the largest year-over-year increase since 2012. Online giving also increased 9% over the 2020 total. For those who feared charitable donations would drop off following the multiple crises of 2020 and record highs in giving, this data comes as reassurance that donors recognized and responded to ongoing needs across all the charitable sectors which the report tracks. 

Unlike Giving USA’s broad annual look at giving, the Blackbaud report uses data from a carefully selected group of nonprofit organizations to draw its conclusions. The 2021 report’s findings are based on gifts made to 8,635 nonprofit organizations, totaling $46.4 billion. The online data comes from 4,535 nonprofit organizations reporting a total of $2.9 billion in gifts.

The key trends noted in the report include information about donors, gifts and sectors supported. Some notable findings:

  • The average age of donors is 65, up from 62 in 2016.
  • The average size of overall gifts is $813, while the average online gift is $204.
  • The average size of gifts by sector ranged from a low of $299 for animal welfare to a high of $1,631 for higher education.
  • The year-over-year increase in specific sector support ranged from a low of 1.8% in human services, likely because of a surge in such support in 2020, to a high of 19.3% for environmental causes. 
  • The timing of gifts ranged from an overall low in February, 5.6% of gifts made, to a predictable high in December, when 20.1% of gifts were made.

In its executive summary, the Blackbaud report notes, “In years past, it was common for overall giving and online donations to fall back to normal levels following major episodic events. That was not the case in 2021. Giving not only recovered but grew more than it has in a decade.” Its findings confirm the sustained generosity of Americans and the critical role of private giving to a healthy and vibrant civil society. We look forward to more good news when the next edition of Giving USA’s annual report is published this June.

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