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Whether you’re a member of a development team, CEO, board member, nonprofit consultant, or educator, Giving USA 2019 is an essential tool for success. It’s more than an intelligence report—it’s a guide to informed fundraising. Giving USA 2019 is filled with opportunities to benchmark your nonprofit against national trends. The Practitioner Highlights at the beginning of each chapter will provide suggested strategies and an at-a-glance reference. Giving USA 2019 also includes expert tips on how to put the data into immediate action, with “Good to Know” boxes that dive deeper into trends identified in the report.

Turn research into day-to-day actions

Tracking how charitable giving has progressed over time—both nationally and at your own organization—provides an insightful backstory to your current circumstances and tools for planning the future. Below you can find how other practitioners have benefited from Giving USA.

  • “Giving USA products have informed my outlook, strategy, and goals, and have supported board and staff development in fundraising.” – Lara Kilpatrick, Advancement Director
  • “The contents are helpful with bench-marking data, creating targets and Key Performance Indicators. It provides information on best practices and examples.” – Dave Neary, Executive Director
  • “It helps me keep informed about trends in charitable giving and enriches my presentations, especially in terms of discussing trends and research in the field.” – Chris Yates, Chief Advancement Officer
  • “It is essential in directing staff and board to focus on major gifts and individual gifts.” – Leonard Iaquinta, President
  • “It is helpful to share with staff and boards of nonprofits, so that they have a clearer picture of the sector, where funding comes from and where it goes.” – Greg Kapp, Senior Associate Vice President for Development Operations
  • “With this information, my students are able to make intelligent analyses about nonprofit organizations’ finances and their contributions. I also use it to encourage them to become intentional, consistent givers.” – Barbara Clemenson, Adjunct Professor

Stay savvy on economic trends

Giving USA helps unravel economic trends (like stock market performance, disposable personal income, GDP, and personal consumption). You will learn how changes in these economic trends correlate to changes in giving by source. Being knowledgeable about these trends can help you better understand external factors that impact your donors’ philanthropic choices. You will also be better equipped to build rapport with people who closely monitor the economy, incorporate national trends into your forecasting, and potentially boost donations.

Evaluate your effectiveness

  • Does your organization match national trends in terms of growth/decline? If overall giving went up 4%, and your subsector only saw 2% growth, or your category went up 8%, consider reasons for the discrepancy and how you might need to adjust your forecasts.
  • Where should you focus your efforts? Anticipate how national trends might impact your organization and develop plans to tap into them. Study the four sources of charitable donations—individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations. Then, compare trends against your organization’s historic sources of funding and how your organization is spending its time and energy fundraising.
  • Do your organization’s stakeholders have the same level of understanding about charitable giving? Many nonprofits and their stakeholders mistakenly believe that corporations and foundations comprise the bulk of charitable giving, but overwhelmingly, individuals/households are the biggest source. Also, your stakeholders should recognize that donors have more methods than ever—from apps to financial vehicles such as donor-advised funds—to make charitable gifts quickly and easily. If your stakeholders do not understand these giving vehicles and other trends, a short refresher might be in order.

It’s also important to understand the scope and boundaries of what the report covers:

Can Giving USA tell me…?

Combined giving estimates for the U.S. in 2018, with results based on econometric models rather than surveys (see Infographic, Key Findings, and the Numbers sections)

X Giving outside the U.S.

X Regional and state-level giving

Total charitable donation amounts given by each of the four main giving sources (see Sources of Contributions chapters)

Total charitable donation amounts received by the nine major subsectors (see Uses of Contributions chapters)

X Cross-analysis of giving by source and use (such as the amount given to health by individuals)

X Giving amounts by specific sources or to specific organizations

Contextual analysis of giving trends (see Sources of Contributions and Uses of Contributions chapters). Topics include:

  • Donor behavior
  • Fundraising trends
  • Strategies of successful campaigns
  • Economic factors

X Amounts raised by specific fundraising methods (such as direct mail or tele-fundraising)

X Pathways of gifts made (such as through giving vehicles)

Trendline data for over 40 years of giving in the U.S. (see the Data Tables section, and the Numbers chapter, with graphs also available in the digital Graph Pack)

How Giving USA researchers gather the data and from what sources (see Methodology section).

X What’s predicted for 2019 giving and giving in the future

Giving USA 2019 should be a central tool for your fundraising planning — and ingrained in your organizational philosophy. Refer to the book throughout the year as you communicate with donors, fine-tune your case for support, and plan for the future.

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Written by Kaitlin Robb and Melissa James, with thanks to Keith Curtis, all of The Curtis Group. This article appears in Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018, available at