5 Years of Nonprofit Fundraising Stats: [2015 to 2020] And 6 Trends to Know

Despite uncertainty in 2020 due to the pandemic, giving went up last year. In fact, giving predictions continue to follow an increasing trend across the next five years. 

In the US, the year didn’t start off with a global crisis. When the pandemic took hold in March, it took giving with it. Small nonprofits saw a 17% decline in donations during April, May, and June 2020 compared to the prior year. Yet by the end of the year, generosity climbed higher than the year before, again.

The outlook for nonprofits in 2021 and 2022 seeking more donations is optimistic—this is especially true if your nonprofit is flexible and willing to adapt to the online donation ecosystem.

Whether you’re a nonprofit leader or nonprofit curious, there are some key numbers to keep in mind related to nonprofits, giving, and the growing giving landscape.


2015 Stats

Total US Giving:

  • Total: $379.89 billion
  • Individual: $264.58 billion

Other

  • Foundation giving was $58.46 billion.
  • Charitable bequests included $31.76 billion.
  • Corporate giving totaled $18.45 billion.
  • Giving Tuesday total: $116.7 million

Mail stats

Key Quote

“Very large charitable donations—categorized here as gifts of $100 million or more… that were publicly announced totaled at least $3.3 billion.” – U.S. Giving Report

2016 Stats

Total US Giving:

  • Total $389.64 billion
  • Individual: $281.86 billion

Other

  • Foundation giving was $59.28 billion.
  • Charitable bequests included $30.36 billion.
  • Corporate giving totaled $18.55 billion.
  • Giving Tuesday total: $168 million

Mail stats

  • Direct mail response rate: (to house): 5%
  • Postage per letter: $0.47

Key Quote

“Giving to all nine major categories of recipient organizations grew, making 2016 just the sixth time in the past 40 years that this has occurred. The nine categories are religion; education; human services; giving to foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture and humanities; international affairs; and environment and animals.” – U.S. Giving Report

2017 Stats

Total US Giving:

  • Total: $424.74 billion
  • Individual: $286.65 billion

Other

  • Foundation giving was $66.90 billion.
  • Charitable bequests included $35.70 billion.
  • Corporate giving totaled $20.77 billion.
  • Giving Tuesday total: $274 million, according to Nonprofit Source

Mail stats

  • Direct mail response rate: (to house): 5%
  • Postage per letter: $0.49

Key Quote

“The increase in giving in 2017 was generated in part by increases in the stock market, as evidenced by the nearly 20 percent growth in the S&P 500. Investment returns funded multiple very large gifts, most of which were given by individuals to their foundations, including two gifts of $1 billion or more,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

2018 Stats

Total US Giving:

  • Total: $431.43 billion
  • Individual: $292.09 billion

Other

  • Foundation giving was $75.86 billion.
  • Charitable bequests included $39.71 billion.
  • Corporate giving totaled $20.05 billion.
  • Giving Tuesday total: $380 million, later updated to $400 million

Mail stats

  • Direct mail response rate: (to house): 9%
  • Postage per letter: $0.50

Key Quote

“The overall U.S. economy was relatively strong in 2018, lifted by the robust performance of many of the economic factors that affect giving, such as a 5.0% increase in disposable personal income and 5.2% growth in the GDP, both in current dollars. Giving by foundations and giving by corporations were buoyed by the strong run of the stock market in the past few years. Individual giving declined.” (Giving USA)

2019 Stats

Total US Giving:

  • Total: $449.64 billion
  • Individual: $309.66 billion

Other

  • Foundation giving was $75.69 billion.
  • Charitable bequests included $43.21 billion.
  • Corporate giving totaled $21.09 billion.
  • Giving Tuesday total: $511 million

Mail stats

  • Direct mail response rate: pending
  • Postage per letter: $0.55

Key Quote

“Donors’ giving patterns evolve in response to changes in economic and social forces,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Giving to education, public-society benefit organizations, and arts, culture, and humanities all increased over 10% since the year before.

2020 Stats

Total US Giving:

  • Total: $471.44 billion 
  • Individual: $324.10 billion

Other

  • Foundation giving was $88.55 billion.
  • Charitable bequests included $41.91 billion.
  • Corporate giving totaled $16.88 billion.
  • Giving Tuesday total: $2.47 billion

Mail stats

  • Direct mail response rate: pending
  • Postage per letter: $0.55

Key Quote

While foundation and bequest giving increased in 2020, corporate giving dropped 7.3%, adjusted for inflation.

“The impact of the pandemic, economic turmoil, and efforts to support racial justice were also reflected in the shifts in giving among the broad categories of recipients. Human services and public-society benefit organizations both experienced significant influxes of cash as Americans gave to address the immediate needs of food and shelter for those who lost employment due to mandated shutdowns.” (Philanthropy Roundtable)


6 Trends in Fundraising Since 2015

1. Giving trends up, consistently

In 2015, total giving sat at $25.8 billion. Five years later, in 2020, that figure shot up by 158% to a total of $40.7 billion for the year, according to The Blackbaud Institute. In another four to five years, the annual giving amount is expected to keep this upward trend.

For example, fundraising platform Fundly projects that the global crowdfunding market will almost triple by 2025

Nonprofits need not worry about generosity drying up. As annual donation amounts keep increasing, what’s important is a killer strategy for your nonprofit to raise the most money while keeping in touch with supporters.

2. Marketing is missing the audience

Nonprofits today often miss donation opportunities by not being flexible in how they reach new demographics and maintain their online presence. Here are some key things to know about fundraising online.

Online giving increased by 32% from 2019 to 2020. This method of giving is shooting up in popularity, but not everyone is capturing the benefits. Part of why organizations miss out is because they need to adjust marketing or are missing out on corporate matching programs.

3. Nonprofits miss corporate matches

65% of Fortune 500 companies offer a matching gifts program. This often creates an opportunity to 1.5x, double, or even triple donations. In other words, billions of match dollars are left on the table yearly.

Employer matching programs from corporate employers are a missed opportunity because nonprofits don’t specifically target individuals who could have their donation power doubled or better. It’s especially important to keep this in mind for millennial donors, who give just below $500 annually, and are most likely to use a matching gift

When a nonprofit doesn’t explore opportunities to maximize matching programs through employers, they inevitably lose out. Instead, nonprofits need to implement creative strategies to bring in donations as well as corporate matching gifts.

4. Email is dead, long live email 

Emails, like marketing in other industries, can be a golden opportunity to build community, build loyalty, and bring in donations. Beyond the power of building community and reaching most of your supporters, email has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel. It’s about $40 per dollar spent, according to QGIV.

Plus, the more email subscribers, the better online presence and social media presence your nonprofit tends to have. Most donors look at a nonprofit’s website and social pages before donating. Getting donors to follow or subscribe keeps them closer to the nonprofit’s community. QGIV found that “for every 1,000 email subscribers, nonprofits have 817 Facebook fans, 291 Twitter followers, and 149 Instagram followers.”

These numbers count. 74% of Americans are on Facebook. Since Facebook’s fundraising tools launched in 2015, the platform has raised more than $2 billion for nonprofits. More email subscribers mean a higher return on marketing investment. It means more Facebook fans and more donations. It means more Twitter and Instagram followers appreciating a better-known brand and presence.

5. Direct mail is also very much not dead

In a digital world, email may be a coveted marketing method, but old-school mail is still very effective too. One of the greatest advantages of direct mail is visibility. While someone’s email inbox may be filled with promotional newsletters and sporadic spam, a physical mailbox tends to be stuff with a lot less crap. After all, Americans receive 605 emails and 16.8 pieces of mail on average per week, according to Compu-Mail.

Between 2015 and 2018, direct mail had an average response rate of 5.75%. This marketing method has many different uses, and depending on your goals, that response rate is especially good for selling services, building awareness, and fielding donations. To be most effective in direct mail, make sure to know your audience, target your mail, and choose the right mailer design. For example, according to Nonprofit Source, small details like adding a recipient’s name and full color can increase responses by 135%.

If you combine email and direct mail, this duo leads to even stronger results and conversions. For example, the synergy between email and direct mail leads to 40% conversion rates, 68% increased website visits, and 60% increased return on investment, according to Comp-Mail

These figures are significant reasons to direct mail alone or in combination with email when possible. 

6. Who is donating? Are they really online?

The average donor age in the U.S. is 64 years old. Don’t let that fool you, though. Younger donors also make significant contributions, and their decisions are the most heavily influenced by online appearance and presence.

A staggering 75% of “young donors are turned off by out-of-date websites,” according to a study by QGIV. Most millennials donate just under $500 annually. Even though the average donor isn’t a millennial or Gen Z, appealing to them is still critical. Having an outdated website or feel on your social pages could be making you lose big with a sizable segment of donors.

In addition, branded donation forms lead to bigger donations and more donations in total. Compared to a generic PayPal page, for example, donations on a branded form are 38% larger on average. A $25 donation on PayPal could become a $35 donation on a branded form.  On top of that, QGIV found that donors are almost 70% more likely to contribute a second donation if they used a branded page their first time.

What are people donating to?

The most popular donation categories for Americans include religion, education, and human services. Arts, individuals, and the environment are the least popular categories.

Random but interesting facts

Those earning the least tend to donate the most, proportionally. According to QGIV, individuals earning $25,000 or less per year donate 16.6% of their income to charity, the largest share of any group.


Get on track or get comfortable in the back. 2025 is on its way and is expected to be the biggest giving year ever. Implementing strategies like TK can set your nonprofit on a path to success and more donations.

Giving Tuesday 2021 is not far away. On average, 30% of annual giving happens in December, and about 10% of all annual donations come in the last three days of the year.

Are you ready for 2021’s giving season?

Additional Resources