JUST RELEASED: Special Report, The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know

GUSA Special Report on Donor-Advised FundsWhere do donor-advised fund grants go?

Education and religion attract the most dollars, Special Report on Donor-Advised Funds from Giving USA Foundation™ and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds

CHICAGO—Donor-advised funds are frequently identified as one of the fastest-growing vehicles for charitable giving, but the question of where those donor-advised fund grant dollars go has remained largely unanswered until now. A new report is the first to uncover these answers. Among other findings, it identifies education, religion and public-society benefit organizations as the types of nonprofits that attracted the most donor-advised fund grant dollars, based on a sample of donor-advised fund sponsoring organizations from 2012 to 2015.

The Giving USA Special Report, The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know, released on February 28, 2018, was researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI with support from Giving USA Foundation™ and the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative. The Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative is a grantmaking program overseen by the trustees of Fidelity Charitable with a focus on increasing knowledge, information and resources that donors and nonprofits need to achieve their intended impact.

The report presents new and important information about grants from donor-advised funds that financial advisors, nonprofit professionals including fundraisers, and philanthropists can learn from and apply.

“Despite the growth in donor-advised funds in recent years, there has been little quantitative research on where the dollars go. The findings of this report can help demystify this important vehicle for charitable giving, including offering a clear comparison between how donor-advised funds’ granting patterns compare with the distribution of all types of charitable giving in Giving USA,” said Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, Chair of Giving USA Foundation.

“This report offers insight into the granting patterns of donor-advised funds,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the school. “At a time when there are more questions than ever about how the growth of donor-advised funds is changing the field of philanthropy, this new, quantitative research offers some much-needed perspective.”

The report is based on original research by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The school analyzed granting data from a small number of organizations that represented roughly half of all granting dollars from donor-advised funds between 2012 and 2015. The school used IRS Schedule I data and also collected direct granting data from donor-advised fund sponsoring organizations for the sample. Subsector categories were assigned to the organizations that received grants using National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) codes, the same process used to identify contributions to subsectors in Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy.

Compared to the distribution of total U.S. giving as identified by Giving USA, grants from donor-advised funds give a greater share of their giving to education and less to religion.

Giving to education comprised 28 percent of giving from donor-advised funds from 2012 to 2015. For the same time period, giving to education in Giving USA comprised only 15 percent of total giving.

In contrast, grants to the religion subsector represented 14 percent of giving from the donor-advised fund sample, while giving to the religion subsector represented 32 percent of total giving in Giving USA.

The distribution patterns by donor-advised funds track more closely with the trends of high-net-worth donors, who tend to give a larger share of their giving to education than to religion, a trend that was echoed in the study.

“The data clearly identify education and religion organizations as the types of nonprofits that are most likely to attract grant dollars from donor-advised funds,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “We need more data to discover how those trends may unfold over a longer period of time, especially as donors and nonprofits continue to learn about and explore the possibilities of donor-advised funds.”

The study found that granting patterns from donor-advised funds are relatively stable, with each different type of nonprofit receiving a similar percentage of total donor-advised fund giving from year to year.

The report also features new aggregate estimates for donor-advised fund assets, number of donor-advised fund accounts in the U.S., and total dollars contributed to donor-advised funds, finding strong growth in every category between 2008 and 2014. Other sections of the report include a focus on the history of donor-advised funds, costs and benefits, and the future of donor-advised funds in light of recent changes to tax policy.

“In addition to the unique research findings, this report offers important history and context to help stakeholders better understand the landscape of donor-advised funds,” said Keith Curtis, Immediate Past Chair of Giving USA Foundation and president of The Curtis Group, a fundraising consultancy. “This report will help readers develop their organizations’ strategy for how they can work most effectively with donor-advised funds.”

Granting patterns from donor-advised funds are often difficult to track, in part because there is no single source of data that can be used to identify them. Although IRS Form 990 Schedule I requires organizations that house donor-advised funds to record granting data, the grants from donor-advised funds are not separated from other grants the organization makes, so studies must work with individual donor-advised fund sponsors to get accurate data that tracks the grants solely from donor-advised funds. In addition, there are other issues associated with Schedule I data, including that the forms may not be available in machine-readable format, meaning someone would have to enter granting data by hand.

Expert Panelists to Discuss Special Report during Live Webcast on March 1

The Giving Institute and Giving USA Foundation hosted a live webcast on Thursday, March 1, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. Central, where expert panelists discussed the new Giving USA Special Report The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know. During the free webcast, attendees asked their most pressing questions about donor-advised funds and how to incorporate this giving vehicle into their fundraising plans. View the free recording here.

About Giving USA Foundation

Advancing the research, education and public understanding of philanthropy is the mission of Giving USA Foundation, founded in 1985 by The Giving Institute. Headquartered in Chicago, the Foundation publishes data and trends about charitable giving through its seminal publication, Giving USA, and quarterly reports on topics related to philanthropy. Published since 1956, Giving USA is the longest running, most comprehensive report on philanthropy in America. Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016 is available now at www.GivingUSA.org. Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017 will be available on June 12, 2018. Read more about Giving USA Foundation’s history, as well as the history of Giving USA and philanthropy in the U.S. in the Giving USA 2015 Spotlight: Celebrating Service to Philanthropy (available as a free download on www.GivingUSA.org).

About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy and “Like” us on Facebook.

The Giving USA Special Report on The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know is available for $24.95 in digital PDF format or as a paperback book (with digital download) for $29.95.

Giving USA: Americans Donated an Estimated $358.38 Billion to Charity in 2014; Highest Total in Report’s 60-year History

Giving USA: Americans Donated an Estimated $358.38 Billion to Charity in 2014; Highest Total in Report’s 60-year History

Healthier American economy, as measured by multiple indicators, was engine for 7.1 percent growth in charitable giving

CHICAGO (June 16, 2015)—Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014, surpassing the peak last seen before the Great Recession, according to the 60th anniversary edition of Giving USA, released today. That total slightly exceeded the benchmark year of 2007, when giving hit an estimated inflation-adjusted total of $355.17 billion.
The 2014 total jumped 7.1 percent in current dollars and 5.4 percent when inflation-adjusted over the revised estimate of $339.94 billion that Americans donated in 2013, according to Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

In addition, 2014 marked the fifth year in a row where giving went up; the average annual increase was 5.5 percent in current dollars (3.4 percent when inflation-adjusted).

All four sources that comprise total giving—individuals (72 percent of the total); corporations (5 percent); foundations (15 percent); and bequests (8 percent)—upped their 2014 donations to America’s 1-million-plus charities, says the report, which is the longest-running and most comprehensive of its kind in America. Giving USA is published by Giving USA Foundation, which was established by The Giving Institute to advance philanthropy through research and education. The report is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“The 60-year high for total giving is a great story about resilience and perseverance,” said W. Keith Curtis, chair of the Foundation and president of Virginia Beach, Virginia, nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group. “It’s also interesting to consider that growth was across the board, even though criteria used to make decisions about giving differ for each source.”

Curtis said two examples illustrate the point: “Individual giving is affected by available disposable income at the household level, wealth and growth in the S&P 500. All three increased last year as did the amount people spent in general—not just on charitable donations. Corporate giving decisions, on the other hand, have historically been driven by changes in pretax profits and GDP. Other factors might be affecting how much they donate; time—and further research—will tell.

“With virtually every economic indicator that gets measured showing growth, I think it’s safe to conclude they played a large part in making 2014 a banner year for giving from every source,” he added.

2014 Charitable Giving by Source:

  • Individual giving, $258.51 billion, increased 5.7 percent in current dollars (and 4.0 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.
  • Foundation giving, $53.97 billion, was 8.2 percent higher than 2013 (the increase was 6.5 percent when inflation-adjusted).
  • Bequest giving, $28.13 billion, increased 15.5 percent (13.6 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.
  • Corporate giving, $17.77 billion, increased 13.7 percent (11.9 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013 giving.

“As we mark the fifth consecutive year of growth in total giving, it is also encouraging that all but one of the recipient categories saw generally healthy gains last year,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., dean of the school. “While circumstances vary from organization to organization, it appears that the nonprofit sector overall can at last focus on expanding giving rather than regaining lost ground.”

Observations about 2014 giving:

  • Large gifts—$200 million or more—made large impact“We saw several very large gifts greater than $200 million—a few were greater than $500 million and one was nearly $2 billion—in 2014,” said Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs and research at the school. “The majority of these ‘mega-gifts’ were given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs. These gifts are high-impact and are addressing many critical issues of our time, particularly medical research.”
  • Jump in individual giving—5.7 percent—made greatest impact

The 5.7 percent more that individuals donated in 2014 over 2013 accounted for 58 percent of last year’s total growth in giving.

  • Foundation giving on the rise; all three kinds upped 2014 gifts Not only did total giving by foundations grow 8.2 percent in 2014, gifts from all three types—community, independent and operating—also went up.  The annual changes in this category are influenced most by grants from independent foundations; their 2014 gifts were 7.8 percent higher than in 2013 and accounted for 74 percent of the category’s total.Taking the long view on total charitable giving, Rooney noted that while total inflation-adjusted giving has grown beyond its prior peak, a bit of caution is warranted. “As three of the four sources of giving have not yet exceeded their previous peak levels, with only foundation giving reaching its prior high, it is still too early to tell if total giving will sustain above the pre-recession level.“That being said, we are optimistic that giving will soon return to and exceed the high levels seen prior to the Great Recession across all categories analyzed in Giving USA,” he said.

2014 Charitable Giving to Recipients

The flip side of where charitable donations come from, of course, is where those gifts go. Giving USA’s research covers what happens within nine different categories of charities; here’s what 2014 looked like for each:

  • Religion—at $114.90 billion, 2014 giving increased 2.5 percent in current dollars, and a modest 0.9 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • Education—giving increased to $54.62 billion, 4.9 percent more in current dollars than the 2013 total. The inflation-adjusted increase was 3.2 percent.
  • Human Services—its $42.10 billion total was 3.6 percent higher, in current dollars, than in 2013. The inflation-adjusted increase was 1.9 percent.
  • Health—the $30.37 billion 2014 estimate was 5.5 percent higher, in current dollars, than the 2013 estimate. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 3.8 percent.
  • Arts/Culture/Humanities—at an estimated $17.23 billion, growth in current dollars was 9.2 percent in 2014. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 7.4 percent.
  • Environment/Animals—The $10.50 billion estimate for 2014 was up 7.0 percent in current dollars, and 5.3 percent when adjusted for inflation, over 2013 giving.
  • Public-Society Benefit—the $26.29 billion estimate for 2014 increased 5.1 percent in current dollars over 2013. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 3.4 percent.
  • Foundations—at an estimated $41.62 billion in 2014, giving grew 1.8 percent in current dollars and 0.1 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • International Affairs—the $15.10 billion estimate for 2014 decreased 2.0 percent, in current dollars, from 2013. The drop was 3.6 percent when adjusted for inflation.

In addition to the above, 2 percent of 2014’s total — $6.42 billion — went to individuals, largely through in-kind donations of medicine via patient assistance programs.

Six of the nine categories saw donations reach record highs last year when adjusted for inflation: religion, education, human services, health, arts/culture/humanities and environment/animals.

“It’s not only fantastic to see significant growth in total giving, it’s also encouraging that six types of nonprofits — two-thirds of the ones covered in Giving USA—reached historic high-water marks last year,” said David H. King, CFRE, president of Atlanta-based consulting firm Alexander Haas and chair of the Institute.

“While the overall growth is indicative of robust philanthropy to a wide spectrum of nonprofits and, thus, of all boats rising with the tide, we would be remiss to gloss over what is happening with giving to religion. Although 2014 donations reached a new high of $114.90 billion, and, as always, accounted for the largest percentage of donations, the fact is, this category is continuing its 30-year dramatic downward slide as a share of total giving. In fact, it has dropped from 53 percent of all donations in 1987 to 32 percent of the total in 2014.”

Giving to foundations, public-society benefit and international affairs has not yet returned to or surpassed peak levels. Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research at the school, said several notable trends affected donations to those three sectors.

“We found a dramatic slowing down of giving to support the largest national donor-advised funds in 2014. This may have slightly dampened giving to the public-society benefit subsector,” she said. “We also know that giving to some pass-through charities—those that redistribute their funds to other organizations—have seen little to no growth in recent years.”

When it comes to international affairs, “donors appear to be increasing their attention to domestic causes in recent years,” said Osili, “due to increased needs in the U.S. Additionally, giving to international affairs in 2014 may have been affected by the fact that there was not a major international natural disaster on the scale that we have seen in some recent years, which tends to influence giving to this category.

”The trend of very large gifts to foundations has been holding steady for the past few years, so giving to foundations is close to achieving a high point again,” Osili said. “Gifts to foundations peaked in 2007, when they reached an inflation-adjusted total of $43 billion. That year, several extraordinarily large gifts – including several higher than $500 million and one that exceeded $1 billion – factored into the total.”

Further observations about giving to recipients:

  • Giving to religion’s decline over time as a share of the total reflects that fewer Americans currently identify with a religion, attend worship services or give to houses of worship. These effects have been noted among the Baby Boomer generation; younger age groups appear to be following the same path.
  • Human services giving has increased annually since 2006, when adjusted for inflation. While growth has been modest in recent years, this category, which provides essential services to low-income households, youth and communities, continues to be of central importance to Americans when it comes to charitable donation decisions.
  • Giving in two categories—arts/culture/humanities and environment/animals—saw the fastest growth last year among the nine; in addition, neither has seen a decline (in current dollars) since the end of the recession.
  • Giving to education continues to be strong, and to higher education in particular. Included in its 2014 total are several multi-million dollar gifts, including two of more than $100 million. The latter supported medical research on university campuses.

“The 2014 growth among eight out of nine types of charitable organizations is good news for the philanthropic sector as a whole,” Curtis said. “The growth can be attributed, in part, to the ways charities have been working smarter during daunting times. Nonprofits increasingly are making sure they have strong cases for support, communicate frequently with donors and provide proof of the impact charitable gifts make.

“Now that there seems to be a bit of breathing room, I would encourage charities to continue all these good habits and ensure they remain ingrained as part of their organizational philosophy. If they do, success should continue.”



Members of the media can request 40-year data tables that show sources of contributions by year in current- and inflation-adjusted dollars and allocation of gifts by type of recipient category, also in current- and inflation-adjusted dollars. Data also are available showing total giving as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, individual giving as a percentage of disposable income and corporate giving as a percentage of corporate pre-tax profits.

The requested citation for Giving USA is Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, 2015, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Available online at http://www.givingusa.org.

About Giving USA Foundation™ and The Giving Institute

2015 serves as a benchmark year for both Giving USA Foundation™ (www.givingusa.org) and the organization that created it, The Giving Institute (www.givinginstitute.org)

For the Institute, whose membership is comprised of consultants to nonprofits, 2015 marks 80 years since 11 firms created a trade association focused on ethical fundraising counsel. That mission remains, and its Code of Ethics is a model in the field.

The group’s public-service initiative—measuring and reporting on charitable giving in America—started with the first of 60 consecutive annual reports, known colloquially as Giving USA. The Institute formed Giving USA Foundation™ in 1985 to advance the research, education and public understanding of philanthropy.

Headquartered in Chicago, both the Foundation and the Institute anticipate continuing their respective—and linked—missions for decades to come.

How to Obtain Giving USA 2015

Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014, will be available for download June 16, 2015, at www.givingusa.org. A complimentary executive summary, Highlights, also will be available on that date.

Customers can select from a number of Giving USA 2015 products, including the full report, available in both digital and paperback formats; a PowerPoint slide deck; the data tables; and the free Highlights executive summary.

Giving USA Foundation™ periodically publishes in-depth reports (Spotlights) on different aspects of charitable giving and fundraising trends. Visit www.givingusa.org for available topics; prices vary.

About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. For more information, visit www.philanthropy.iupui.edu.

Giving USA Methodology 

Giving USA estimates primarily rely on econometric methods developed by leading researchers in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector and are reviewed and approved by the members of the Giving USA Advisory Council on Methodology (ACM). Members of the ACM include research directors from national nonprofit organizations, as well as scholars from such disciplines as economics and public affairs, all of whom are involved in studying philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy prepares all of the estimates in Giving USA for Giving USA Foundation. Giving USA develops estimates for giving by each type of donor (sources) and for recipient organizations categorized by subsectors (uses). Most of Giving USA’s annual estimates are based on econometric analyses and tabulations of tax data, economic indicators and demographics. Data for giving by foundations come from the Foundation Center.

Current Giving USA estimates are developed before final tax data, some economic indicators,  and some demographic data are available. The estimates are revised and updated as final versions of these data become available. Final estimates are usually developed two to three years after their initial release.

For more specific details on Giving USA’s methodology, please refer to the “Brief summary of methods” section within Giving USA 2015 or contact the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at adrldavi@iupui.edu or 317-278-8972.


FOR the FOUNDATION: Sharon Bond, 847/530-1549, sharon@gooddogpr.com

FOR the SCHOOL: Adriene Davis Kalugyer, 317-278-8972, adrldavi@iupui.edu

Declining Alumni Giving: What’s happening? Why is it happening? And, what can we do about it?

Angela White, Senior Consultant and CEO, Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, Inc.
Angela White, Senior Consultant and CEO, Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, Inc.

In a new Giving USA Spotlight entitled “The Next Generation of Alumni Giving,” the Council of Alumni Association Executives (CAAE) sponsored a comprehensive view of alumni giving, written and researched by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The findings are paramount to understanding the decline in alumni participation rates and, most importantly, how we can reverse this trend for the future.

What’s happening?
Each year the Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy consistently shows that giving to education is a priority in our nation, second only to giving to religion. Yet alumni giving participation rates have been declining in recent years across both precollege and higher education alma maters. In research by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Council for Aid to Education (CAE), alumni participation rates are dropping while average alumni gifts are increasing. Interestingly, precollege institutions are seeing higher alumni participation rates than are institutions of higher education.

However, after years of decline, alumni participation at higher education institutions appears to be on the rebound. The new study also points out that higher education institutions with the highest campaign goal amounts in 2013 (> or = $1 billion) have the highest alumni participation rates in the campaign at 24% compared with those institutions that had lower campaign goals (< $50 million) who had just 1% alumni participation in the campaign. Precollege institutions also report declining alumni participation in campaigns, showing an average decrease from 21% in 2005 to 10.5% in 2013.

Why is it happening?
There are several reasons posed for the trend of decreasing alumni participation rates. The first reason is simply better tracking. Through the advanced use of technology, institutions are better equipped to track alumni and thus the lower participation rates might be partially attributable to the use of better and more complete data.

Secondly, the rise of family foundations and donor advised funds may be skewing the alumni participation data because these gifts are counted as organizational gifts, not personal gifts, for reporting purposes. This is important to consider as alumni are using these giving vehicles with more frequency.

Finally, it is posed that the turbulence of the alumni experience on campuses in the 1960s and a lessened respect for authority might have a role to play in the decreasing alumni participation rates. The decreases began to occur at approximately the same time that these alumni reached their early 60s which could be considered their optimal giving years and anecdotal evidence exists that there may be a connection between their educational experience in the 1960s and giving today.

What can we do about it?
Engage, communicate, and invest! The engagement of students before they become alumni has proven to enhance alumni engagement. Specifically, students’ involvement in extracurricular activities is correlated to higher alumni participation rates and higher giving.

The need for strong alumni communication also stands out as an important factor. Research shows that those alumni who are more informed about their institution give more than those who are not as well informed. However, it is critical to understand and utilize their preferred communication methods (online, social media, etc.). And, investment in alumni activities by the institution increases the likelihood of alumni giving. It is important to consider the investment in the alumni experience beyond reunions and events to student mentoring, career placement, governing and advisory board service, to name a few.

The full Giving USA Spotlight on the next generation of alumni giving provides very important context for the current trends in alumni giving, excellent data on respective types of institutions and their alumni giving trends, as well as provides thought provoking ideas for deepening alumni engagement at all levels. I highly recommend this issue as important reading for all of us working in the field of education.

This article originally appeared on the Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates website.