News and analysis
February 02, 2016

Growth in Rate of Giving Slows, Report Says

Charitable donations grew for the fourth year in a row in 2015, although at a slower rate than in previous years, according to a report released today.

Giving grew 1.6 percent last year, compared with 2.1 percent in 2014 and 4.9 percent in 2013, according to the report by the fundraising software company Blackbaud.

Part of the reason for the slowdown may be that giving is stabilizing after the big gains that followed the Great Recession, said Steve Mac­Laughlin, director of analytics for the company.

"I just think what we’re seeing is the new normal in fundraising," he said.

The report includes data for over all giving from 5,379 nonprofit organizations representing $18.2 billion in total fundraising in 2015. Data for online giving came from 3,983 nonprofits that raised $2.2 billion. Online giving grew to 9.2 percent, higher than the 8.9-percent increase in 2014 but lower than the 13.5-percent increase the year before.

Nonprofits received 7.1 percent of their donations online, compared with 6.7 percent in 2014.

Nearly 14 percent of online donations were made using mobile devices in 2015, an increase of 4.5 percentage points over 2014, giving it a new level of importance, he said. "Donors are going to drive and demand mobile as a giving option."

Giving Grows at Slower Pace

YearChange in giving
2012 1.7%
2013 4.9%
2014 2.1%
2015 1.6%

 

Source: Blackbaud

Squeezed in the Middle

Medium-size nonprofits, those that raised $1 million to $10 million, saw a decrease in giving, while small and large nonprofits saw increases. Giving to midsize groups dropped 0.7 percent.

Midsize groups have typically seen smaller growth than large and small organizations in previous reports.

That’s because medium-size nonprofits are more vulnerable than large groups, Mr. MacLaughlin said. They have enough money to launch a major campaign, but if it’s unsuccessful, they could see a huge drop in total giving.

By contrast, large groups usually have enough revenue streams that if one campaign doesn’t work, they can absorb the hit.

Large organizations, those that raised $10 million or more, saw a 1.4 percent increase last year, while smaller ones, which raised less than $1 million, had a jump of 5.5 percent.

The larger growth seen for small groups is partly because they were starting with a lower base of donations to begin with, Mr. MacLaughlin said: Small gains can result in big percent increases.

International Groups Fared Best

International-affairs groups saw the largest increase in giving, jumping 5.1 percent in 2015, with faith-based organizations seeing the second-highest growth, 3.9 percent. Health-care organizations came in third, with a 1.9 percent increase. Arts and culture nonprofits and environmental and animal-welfare groups both saw increases of half a percentage point.

The spike for international-affairs groups was due to turmoil across the globe in 2015, Mr. Mac­Laughlin said, such as the massive earthquake in Nepal in April and the humanitarian crisis caused by the civil war in Syria

About 17.4 percent of all giving in 2015 occurred in the last month of the year, which also accounted for 19 percent of online giving.

The month with the second highest overall giving was June, which accounted for 10.2 percent of all giving. April also saw the second-largest total in online giving, at 11 percent.

A Tough Year for Some Groups

It wasn’t all good news for giving. Human-service organizations saw the largest decrease, down 2.8 percent from 2014.

Higher-education institutions declined 0.4 percent, while K-12 organizations saw a decrease of 1 percent. Public and society-benefit organizations saw a decrease of 0.9 percent, while medical-research giving was flat.

Online giving surged for almost all causes, however. Higher education saw a 15.2 percent increase, the highest of all sectors. K-12 education came in second at 12.3 percent. Environmental and animal-welfare organizations had the third-highest increase in online giving, at 11.2 percent.

"These are great numbers, but we should keep in mind that 90 percent of fundraising still happens the old-fashioned way," Mr. MacLaughlin said.

Send an email to Timothy Sandoval.