Giving reached a record high in 2020, according to Giving USA. Here are GG+A’s key takeaways.

Overall giving reached $471.44 billion in 2020, setting a new record with a 5.1% growth rate, the largest one-year growth rate in five years, according to The Giving Institute’s “Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020,” which was released on June 15. GG+A is proud to provide continuing support for this research initiative as a member of The Giving Institute and The Giving USA Foundation.

To put that $471.44 billion in perspective, overall giving accounted for 2.3% of total GDP—the largest share in more than 40 years. That’s particularly notable given the numerous challenges that nonprofits faced last year, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial justice and social justice movements, widespread economic need, and a highly contested presidential election.

That growth reflects the innovative ways that nonprofits sought to ensure their survival. They were resilient as they developed new partnerships, exhibited creativity in terms of messaging and new virtual engagement strategies, and rethought the ways in which they operate. Many of those pivots were successful as philanthropy benefited from increased giving by individuals, foundations, and bequests (only corporate giving declined) thanks in part to some anomalies such as the CARES Act, which helped stabilize the economy, and a thriving stock market.

While few, if any, years will ever be as stressful (or eventful) as last year, there are several lessons to learn from the data. Grenzebach Glier and Associates will be exploring a number of key themes that emerged in “Giving USA 2021” in the coming weeks, including:

  • The continuing rise in online giving, which reached its highest share of total giving on record.
  • The 7.5% decrease in giving to arts, culture, and humanities, which stood in contrast to upticks in most other sectors, something we saw in the last economic downturn in 2009.
  • The influx of new donors to many organizations—and the subsequent challenge of retaining those donors in the year(s) ahead.


Grenzebach Glier and Associates is proud to be a member of The Giving Institute over the past 60 years, and to share these findings from “Giving USA 2021.”

“Giving USA” is an annual publication produced by the fundraising professionals at The Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute, and the research team at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. First published in 1956, “Giving USA” is the longest running report on philanthropy in the United States.

Our Giving USA coverage will continue throughout the next month with a series of webinar conversations with leaders about how the findings relate to their fundraising year. Among the conversations will be a July 14 discussion with Liz Fitzgerald, Director of Development at the American Civil Liberties Union, that will explore the strategies the ACLU has used to successfully retain a huge influx of new donors over the past five years.

Click here to see more of GG+A’s “Giving USA 2021”-related content and click here to learn more about “Giving USA 2021.”

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