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4 Legs of Philanthropy Shows Giving On Upswing

Perception of philanthropy is based on how you define giving. New data from Giving Tuesday shows that 85% of people surveyed globally say that they gave in some form during 2021. That giving could be in the form of cash, items, time or advocacy.

Many surveys by nonprofit sector researchers track a singular form of giving, but “2021 Lookback Report, From Scarcity to Abundance: Mapping the Giving Ecosystem,” from the Giving Tuesday Data Commons tracks the four areas and combines them. Multiple data sources were used for the report.

The Giving Tuesday numbers might provide an indication of why giving cash was flat when inflation was factored in – the majority of people surveyed reported that they were not solicited when they gave money and 40% gave due to solicitation.

The reason for giving — 85% of people said they give because they want to make a difference. Globally, 80% of people said that they give due to a personal or emotional connection with a cause and 77% of people said they give “with their heart rather than their heads.”

The decline in fundraising donors is not driven by giving sentiment, according to the report’s authors. Interest in giving was extremely high, with people giving repeatedly, and in many forms. This decline in donor households is also not due to a mix-shift in giving. Giving across types is not inherently adversarial; instead, it’s “clearly inspiring,” according to Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer of GivingTuesday.

Fundraisers are “asking less and engaging donors less on causes they care about,” Rosenbaum said. He explained that hyper focus on high net worth donors is “setting us up to be less resilient.” He said there is “cash now, but also you have to see who we are leaving out.”

Rosenbaum said data Giving Tuesday is receiving shows that even email deployment by nonprofits was down during 2021, based on numbers from MailChimp. “Engagement frequency could be a lot higher,” he said.

Other than cash, people volunteered on average 43 hours in the United States during 2021 and donated, on average, $400 worth of items throughout the year.

Media coverage and industry discussion is dominated by monetary donations to registered charities, but according to the Giving Tuesday researchers, during 2021 only 10% of giving in the United States was of cash to registered charities. And, less than 50% of any type of giving in the United States was given through registered charities.

Each type of giving tracks a bit differently:

* Items: 43% went through registered charities

* Money: 41% went through registered charities

* Volunteering: 32% went through registered charities

“This story isn’t unique to the USA. This same story played out globally. Giving money was only 29% of giving internationally by participation. Second, less than 33% of any type of giving internationally was given through registered charities,” according to the researchers.

The report’s bottom line is that in the opinions of the researchers giving is not in decline. “Despite concerns from across the social sector, the reality is that the giving ecosystem is characterized by abundance, with the overwhelming majority of people actively participating in it through acts of generosity of all shapes and sizes,” according to the authors. “What we need is an expanded horizon based on a rethinking of how we measure giving.”

Rosenbaum said that nonprofit staff are not leveraging all encounters. “Engagement shouldn’t always be about solicitation,” he said. “Organizations with a broad base of donors, including grassroots givers, are more resilient to economic shocks. Diversifying support is proof against recession and doing that means meeting a more diverse base where they are,” said Rosenbaum.

Giving Tuesday will be surveying on a weekly basis to see trends in various types of giving. He said that they have been able to correlate survey responses to actual data from nonprofits, he said.

To see a full set of the data go to


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