Giving USA: Behind the Numbers

Charitable giving in the U.S.—and giving to education—reached new highs in 2016, according to the recently released Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016.

The report on philanthropic trends, published annually by the Giving USA Foundation, indicated that charities raised $390 billion, up 2.7 percent from 2015. CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham called this a “cause for celebration.”

But that’s just the beginning of the story. Here’s a look behind the numbers, with answers to key questions about what these trends mean for educational advancement.

How does education giving compares to overall giving?

The Giving USA report lists nine categories of recipient organizations. Of those recipient types, religious organizations received the largest share of charitable gifts, followed by education, which draws 15 percent of total giving. For the seventh consecutive year, giving to education rose. Contributions to education organizations rose 3.6 percent from 2015 to 2016 to $59.77 billion.

“[This is] a tribute to the hard work of institutional leadership, staff, volunteers and alumni who are all working to advance their institutions,” said Cunningham, who discussed the report’s data in a recent Campbell & Company webinar.

Still, educational giving didn’t grow as much in 2016 as it did in the past, the report noted. In 2014 and 2015, it grew by more than 8 percent.

How can institutions better cultivate millennial donors?

If there is a secret to millennial giving, higher education is still uncovering it. Though millennials cite education as a top priority, young alumni are less likely to donate to their alma maters than older alumni. Crowdfunding, online Giving Days and using social media to bolster student philanthropy are all on the rise, according to the report. “This is a space we’ll continue to watch as it grows,” said Cunningham.

What drives multi-million dollar gifts?

Higher education, according to the report, remains the most popular philanthropic cause for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Forty percent of million-dollar-plus gifts support education.

Though impressive, Cunningham pointed out that these gifts “do not happen overnight.” Large gifts require stewardship and plenty of “time and energy” from advancement teams.

Where is education fundraising is growing fastest?

Giving to community colleges, according to the report, rose at a faster rate in 2016 than giving to other education institutions. That, said Cunningham, marks great progress. “‘Significant’ gifts means different things at different institutions,” she pointed out. “There are some really significant gifts coming in for community colleges because of the progress they are making [with fundraising operations].”

How are billion-dollar campaigns faring?

Eight higher education institutions concluded billion-dollar campaigns in 2016, according to Giving USA 2017. Thirty-eight billion-dollar campaigns were identified as being in progress in 2016.

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