Giving USA 2021 Report: Key Insights

Posted August 29, 2022

Development Guild staff weigh in on the latest Giving USA report.

corporate giving increased by 23.8 percent in 2021

“When corporate self-interest aligns with community needs the outcome can be powerful. That’s what happened last year when corporate America woke up to the impact a global pandemic and the racial equity movement were having on business and society writ large. The significant jump in corporate giving in 2021 represents corporate America’s delayed response to unprecedented national and world events that began in early 2020. And, despite the pump (17% adjusted for the sectors’ decline in giving in 2020), corporate giving remains at only 4% of overall giving nationally, the smallest percentage category. And, despite tax incentives for giving at least 5% of pre-tax earnings, corporate America’s collective philanthropic commitment has rarely hit 2%, no matter what is going on. All that said, in real dollars the corporate sector is contributing more each year on average, now at $21 B. For nonprofits that saw an increase in corporate giving last year, the job ahead is to deepen ties with corporate donors through mutual self-interest.”

Karen Lieberman-Daly

Senior Vice President


giving to foundations increased 3.4 percent in 2021

“As the country continued to manage through the pandemic and the unrest around social justice and equity, more and more foundations either deepened their existing commitment to these areas or expanded their focus to better address them. In turn, this attracted the interest of donors, who were equally impacted by current events and seeking to help those who needed it most. Donors trust that these foundations have done the right research and due diligence around how best to allocate the funds, and they welcome the opportunity to place the decision-making in the hands of the foundations and their expertise. Our clients in turn are benefiting from these foundations having more funds to allocate, and this trend is expected to continue. Many foundations will continue to focus on big societal issues, especially those around DEI, and organizations will want to be sure to stay abreast of the focus areas for these foundations in an effort to best position themselves for funding – especially if their donors are already giving to these foundations.”

Suzanne Battit

Senior Vice President and Fundraising Practice Manager, Principal


giving by individuals increased by 4.9 percent in 2021

“The sustainability of individual giving in 2021 is a testimony to the resiliency of individual donors through the recent pandemic. During the pandemic, many nonprofit organizations, particularly front-line social service and social justice organizations, received an outpouring of increased and new gifts from individual donors.  Although the sustainability of this support varied from organization to organization, the overall level of generosity continued in 2021. Many organizations have benefited from clearly communicating the impact of the philanthropic support received during the pandemic and the need for continued and increased philanthropic support going forward.”

Kieran McTague

Senior Vice President and Director, New York, Principal


giving to arts culture and humanities institutions increased by 27.5 percent

“Often, when crisis hits (be it economic or otherwise), the arts and culture sector is among the hardest hit in terms of decreased giving. However, typically, they also come back with a vengeance! While not all organizations survived the recent tumult, those that are able to outlast something like a pandemic, do so largely thanks to contributions from supporters who have resolved not to lose the programs, content, and connections they hold dear. They step up.

This is definitely consistent with what we are seeing among our clients! Many of the clients I am working with have seen increases in giving of all kinds. Donors have missed visiting treasured institutions and are eager to rejoin those communities and support the staff and missions of organizations they care about deeply. Also, because arts and culture programming often serve as a tonic in times of hardship, the need to reflect upon and interact with great works of art is all the more appealing and necessary.

I’ve seen many organizations refocus on the importance of long-term sustainability that allows for maximum flexibility in terms of allocation going forward – donors recognize that more than they did before too. Second, clients who might not have been prioritizing digital efforts prior, have pushed such initiatives to the forefront. Increased investment in digital goals also speaks to the need to continue to grow audiences and increase access. Relatedly, one positive result of the pandemic is that many arts and culture consumers became (often by necessity) more tech savvy, so it’s not surprising to see the increase in online giving described in the report.

I’m hearing from clients that they and their donors are committed to continued growth, while acknowledging uncertainty about the future. Smart organizations know they must move forward with fundraising despite instability. With dedicated staff and informed plans—especially those that underscore nimbleness and allow for evolution—in place, I think there is optimism about the next chapter.”

Lynn Shevory

Senior Consultant


giving to public society benefit porganizations increased by 23.5 percent in 2021

“The subsector of public-society benefit organizations covers a wide range of organizations including human and civil rights organizations, community development organizations, voting rights organizations, United Ways,  and donor-advised funds. Giving to this subsector has increased over the past several years, with total contributions reaching the highest inflation-adjusted value in 2021. This growth can be correlated with the continued societal focus on issues like civil and voting rights, racial justice, and relief from the global pandemic. We have also seen, however, that donor-advised funds have seen significant growth and this likely has contributed significantly to the growth in giving to this subsector; according to The National Philanthropic Trust’s 2021 Donor Advised Fund Report, 2021 saw the highest DAF-grant increase in a decade. Many of our clients are increasingly seeing their donors use donor-advised funds as a vehicle for giving. Our clients are utilizing this growth in funding to invest in their missions but also invest in their development teams – both creating and formalizing development infrastructure and working to diversify their revenue sources – allowing them to continue to be sustainable organizations for years to come, particularly in the face of economic uncertainty.”

Mary Plum

Senior Consultant