In many ways, 2016 was an unusual year. Yet although economic and political uncertainty pervaded much of the year, Americans continued to be generous, giving a record $390.05 billion to U.S. charitable organizations, an increase of 2.7 percent over 2015.
Giving by individuals and households continued its remarkable role in American philanthropy, growing by almost 4 percent and driving the growth in total giving. Helping to bolster individual giving, both personal consumption and disposable personal income grew by nearly 4 percent over 2015. Additionally, the S&P 500 finished the year up 9.5 percent after an uneven performance for much of 2016 and a mixed economic picture in 2015.
Three of the four sources of giving rose in 2016. Notably, all nine major types of recipient charities experienced increases in giving as well, just the sixth time in the last four decades that this has occurred.
We are pleased that giving grew virtually across the board, reflecting widespread interest in philanthropy, and suggesting that donors were motivated by a number of varying causes and organizations.
The role of philanthropy in society is evolving, and so are the ways in which Americans engage in philanthropy. We are seeing more innovation and collaboration, ranging from the tools and platforms used to give, connect, and volunteer, to the ways people and organizations come together to identify and solve complex societal issues.
Giving USA is evolving too, helping to meet the needs of those who are engaged in philanthropy. We are helping you consider how to understand and take advantage of changes in philanthropy. For example, Giving USA 2017 includes a special chapter about donor advised funds, and in 2018 we will release an in-depth Giving USA Special Report about this popular approach to giving. And while the rigor and strength of Giving USA’s methodology is unmatched, we are always exploring potential opportunities to build upon the excellence that is our hallmark.
In its 62rd year of publication, Giving USA provides you with the solid knowledge of context, history, and patterns that leads to useful perspectives that can help advance your organization. Throughout the report, our experts and advisors offer sage insights and advice for fundraisers and other philanthropic sector professionals and volunteers.
Giving USA Foundation, The Giving Institute, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy are pleased to continue our partnership in providing the most comprehensive, longest-running, and most rigorously researched resource on U.S. charitable giving. We are privileged to report on Americans’ generosity, the forms it takes, how those patterns and trends unfold over time, and what that means for you.
As we come together to examine this new knowledge, we encourage you to also pause to appreciate the power of voluntary giving that helps individuals and communities come together to improve the way we live.
The above appears as the Foreword in Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016, released June 13, 2017, at www.GivingUSA.org. The authors are Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, Chair of Giving USA Foundation; Jeffrey D. Byrne, Chair of The Giving Institute; and Amir Pasic, Eugene R. Tempel Dean, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Giving USA is published by Giving USA Foundation and researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.