Giving Hits A Seasonality Lull

May 4, 2015       Patrick Sullivan      

The rate of growth of overall giving in the United States has slowed considerably. Overall giving was up 1.7 percent for the three-month period ending in March 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. For the three-month period ending February 2015, giving was up 4.9 percent versus the same period the year before. Online giving held steady in this most recent index at 9.9 percent.

This most recent Charitable Giving Index from Blackbaud showed the lowest increase in overall giving since the August 2012 index, when overall giving was flat. This isn’t bad news, said Steve MacLaughlin, director of product management for the Charleston, S.C.-based firm.

The overall index is based on more than 4,000 organizations that raise about $17 billion, while the online index has 3,600 organizations raising $2 billion. Because of the much smaller pool of dollars, online giving is subject to greater fluctuations.

“March is the first month where December 2014 giving isn’t in the data. So you’re just seeing a natural seasonality return to the giving trends,” he said. “March 2014 giving was up close to 5 percent so this is still Y-O-Y (year over year) growth on that number.”

Overall giving reached a high last year in the period ending in July 2014, when the index was up 6.3 percent compared to the same period the year before. It declined steadily to a nadir of 2.7 percent growth in November. It has been choppy since: up 4.7 percent in December 2014, up 2.6 percent January 2015, and up 4.9 percent February 2015.

Online giving was at its highest rate of growth in August 2014, when it was up 15.2 percent over the same period in 2013. The rate of growth slowed precipitously, resting in November 2014 at 6.9 percent. The rate of growth shot from 7.1 percent in January 2015 to 9.9 percent in February 2015, and the growth rate was the same in March.

The last time either rate of change was in the negative was March 2011, when overall giving shrank by 1 percent and online giving declined by 4 percent from the same three-month period the prior year.