Foundation Guide

A Tour of Our Global Community of Giving

Foundation Guide

A Tour of Our Global Community of Giving

Individual Donors Are the Largest Source of Charitable Giving


As global economies become more unstable around the world, the job of fundraising becomes more challenging for non-profit organizations. It helps to have well-researched studies to guide nonprofit leaders as they develop their fundraising strategies.

A new study released in 2018 by the U.S. Trust of Bank of America and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy does just that. Surveying 1,646 American households with a net worth greater than $1 million or annual income in excess of $200,000, the study results provide an invaluable tool for non-profit leaders as they improve and concentrate their fundraising efforts.
Among the findings of the Bank of America/Indiana University study is that individuals continue to play the main role in philanthropic giving. In fact, according to data compiled by the National Philanthropic Trust, $268.65 billion in donations came from private individuals in 2017. This amount represents 70% of total 2017 philanthropic giving.

The Bank of America/Indiana University study reveals very important findings that can guide fundraisers over the coming year. Here are just a few.

Individuals are Focused on Mission and Accountability

Mission is clearly the guiding factor in determining where to invest donations. Donors need to feel that the nonprofit aligns with their own interests and world outlook. In fact, more than half of the respondents replied that they donated because of the nonprofit’s mission. At the same time, though, 91% of respondents stated that accountability is very important to them. They want to see outcomes, operating budgets, and the organization’s business practices. Donors want to know that their contributions are going to programs and not administration.

Donors Are Giving More

The study found that individuals are still committed to charitable giving. On average, donors give more than $29,000 per year to nonprofit organizations. Individual donors have a wide variety of interests, but nonprofits focused on basic services are clearly favored recipients. Nonprofits involved in healthcare or religious issues were the next two most popular.

Individuals are Giving More than Money

Individual donors are investing more than their money in nonprofits. They are also donating their time, forming long-lasting partnerships with the organizations they support. The study found that 48% of survey participants donated time to their supported organizations.

What are the Lessons Going Forward?

Probably the most glaring lesson is that accountability matters. High-net-worth individuals are still donating significant sums to charities, but they want to know how their donations are being spent. Charitable organizations need to be sure to provide donors with accurate and easily digestible annual reports.

The fact that donors are becoming more involved by volunteering with the nonprofits they are supporting helps a great deal with this, as nonprofit leaders can easily show donors how and where their contributions are being spent. Organizing opportunities for donors to visit programs or speak with constituents can also give them what they need to stay involved and even increase their annual donation.

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