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  • Writer's pictureLipton Strategies

Philanthropy Insights: Giving USA 2021 Report and the Philanthropic Landscape

The highlight anticipated Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is published and out! Each year, this report sheds light on recent donor trends and helps organizations understand donor priorities and help shape their development strategies. Our Lipton Strategies team has reviewed the report and shares with you some key takeaways.

In 2020 with the unforeseen pandemic, political environment, and social justice movements across the world – giving reached a new record of $471.44 billion, a total increase of 5.5%. Three of four major revenue sources for nonprofits grew in 2020, with the biggest being foundations (19% or $88.55 billion) and bequests (9% or $41.91 billion).

Individual giving remains the top contender reaching $324.10 billion (69% of giving) demonstrating the giving power individuals have across all backgrounds. In contrast, corporate giving remained the same at 4% or $16.88 billion partly due to declines of corporate pretax profits (3.5%) and of economic volatility in certain industries during the pandemic.

While revenue sources shifted, so did the subsectors within the philanthropic world. Seven out of nine subsectors grew with five growing by more than 8% and a two-year growth was positive for all nine subsectors.

Below illustrates four out of nine subsectors that experienced the biggest change in 2020:

Human services experienced the biggest growth in 2020 showing a growth of 9.7% over 2019. However, the subsector that experienced the biggest decline was the arts, the data revealing a drop of 7.5% in 2020. The shutdown of the pandemic impacted in-person events for many arts, culture and humanities organizations.

With the many unprecedented events of 2020, organizations embraced innovative programming, services, and fundraising models. Charities were well served by being able to pivot to providing online services and digital fundraising opportunities. Organizations used Crowdfunding and other forms of nontraditional philanthropy that served as an important role in responding to COVID-19 and calls for social justice. Several reports from across the philanthropy sector indicate that some nonprofit organizations experienced an influx of new donors because of these new innovative models.

To build on the strong fundraising successes of 2020, our team has developed these three tips:

1) Focus on Retention

As organizations experienced growth in 2020 through new donors and increased levels of giving, it is important to place extra focus on retaining those donors. One example of this can be through giving donor acknowledgement through personal phone calls, or emails from a member of the development team or volunteer. This not only expresses gratitude, but keeps the donor motivated to make continuous gifts.

2) Continue to Build Your Base

Last year demonstrated that there are many donor prospects willing to give who have not yet been engaged. Make sure your organization is embracing innovative fundraising solutions that are equitable and inclusive.

3) Demonstrate Impact

If your organization had in influx of new institutional funding sources in 2020, its imperative that you demonstrate the impact of those gifts and your ongoing work. Make sure you collect stories and data that show how your organization remains on the front line of creating positive change!

Does your organization need help realigning your development strategy? Contact our team for a free consultation at

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