New Study Predicts Charitable Giving Will Increase in Each of Next Two Years

Total charitable giving is predicted to increase by 3.4 percent in 2019 and by 4.1 percent in 2020, according to the just released The Philanthropy Outlook 2019 & 2020. The report is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI and presented by Marts & Lundy, a leading strategic management consulting firm.

“A multitude of factors are influencing the prospects for charitable giving in 2019 and 2020, including the macro-economic climate, the potential for the current government shutdown to affect the economy, stock market volatility and donors’ responses to the 2017 tax policy changes,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., an economist who is associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Although no one can know exactly how the interaction of these factors will impact giving in the next two years, The Philanthropy Outlook includes measures to account for their potential effects.”

“As long as the economy remains strong, Americans should expect to see overall growth in charitable giving in the next two years, driven in part by steady economic growth, particularly growth in personal income. Many other economic indicators that affect giving, including employment and Gross Domestic Product, are positive as well,” Osili added.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Total charitable giving is predicted to grow (3.4 % in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020), rising above the historical 10-year, 25-year, and 40-year annualized average rates of growth.
  • Giving by individuals is predicted to grow (2.1% in 2019 and 3.4% in 2020), but will trail the rate of growth for total giving.
  • Giving by foundations (7.0% in 2019 and 6.1% in 2020) and giving by estates (5.4% in 2019 and 5.6% in 2020) are expected to experience strong growth, outpacing growth rates for total giving in 2019 and 2020.
  • Giving by corporations is also projected to grow (3.2% in 2019 and by 2.6% in 2020), but will lag behind rates of growth for total giving.
  • Strong growth rates are projected for giving to education (3.5% in 2019 and 5.7% in 2020) and giving to health (5.2% in 2019 and 4.4% in 2020). These types of nonprofits have traditionally been associated with high-net-worth giving.
  • Giving to public-society benefit nonprofits (1.3% in 2019 and 4.0% in 2020) will see slower growth than the other two recipient subsectors studied.

Three Potential Scenarios

To understand the full scope of the dynamic giving environment expected in 2019 and 2020, the macro-economic climate and ongoing donor responses to the 2017 federal tax law changes must be taken into account. While the ways in which the confluence of these factors will play out for American philanthropy cannot be fully known at this time, The Philanthropy Outlook draws on recent economic forecasts and analyses of the law’s anticipated effects to present projected growth and three potential scenarios that provide context for the baseline projections outlined in the report.

  • Under the Uneven Growth Scenario, estimates for total charitable giving would make much of the regressive effect of the 2017 tax law less apparent. Since high-net-worth individuals/households are already responsible for a large portion of individual/ household giving, enough economic growth – even if concentrated almost entirely among the wealthy – would result in growth in individual/household giving. The picture for corporate philanthropy is less clear: strong economic growth may not do enough to offset the decrease in tax incentives for corporate giving, particularly if overall consumer sentiment is weak. Foundation giving would be strong due to the performance of the Standard & Poor’s 500 and GDP.
  • Should the Flat Growth Scenario occur, total giving could stagnate or possibly decline because growth in the market and the economy would flatten by 2020. Individuals/ households – still unclear about how to maximize the benefits of giving under the 2017 tax law – may put off making charitable contributions until they are more certain, dampening growth in individual/household philanthropy. Due to S&P 500 and GDP growth realized in previous years, foundation giving would not immediately decline. Corporate giving may increase slightly, although this would largely depend on companies’ reactions to the new corporate tax rates.
  • In the Economic Downturn Scenario, while current economic expansion is expected to continue into 2019, some forecasters expect the positive effects of the 2017 individual and corporate tax cuts to decline rapidly after the first two years, leading to recessionary conditions by the end of 2020. This scenario would result in reductions in charitable giving essentially across the board.

Donors, fundraising professionals and policy makers need rigorous data and reliable information to help them plan for the future. In addition to the projections and scenarios, The Philanthropy Outlook 2019 & 2020 includes discussion of specific tax policy changes and of economic factors expected to affect giving.