For the Children: The state of charitable giving across the United States

The week before last, I was pleased to join hundreds of other nonprofit leaders at the Sarkeys Foundation Southwest Regional Leadership Forum. This enlightening conference, held in Norman under the direction of former Oklahoma First Lady Kim Henry and her team, provided two days of encouraging discussion and thoughtful workshops on best practices.

The three keynote presenters at the conference each worked to build up the spirit of all the attendees. 
Alison Levine, who organized an all-women’s expedition to climb Mt. Everest, spoke about her experiences and lessons learned.

The well-known author and “life strategist” Valorie Burton provided an insightful message called “Purpose: how will others be impacted because they crossed your path?”

Motivational Speaker Bob Goff also shared a heartening account of lessons he has learned in life and how to stay positive through some of the most troubling times. Each was tremendous and the timing was perfect for providing inspiration. 

In addition to the three speakers, we had workshops reviewing issues faced by nonprofits. I was fascinated by one of the fundraising sessions and want to share some of the lessons learned. Like many non-profits, OICA is dependent on generous donors who contribute through our website ( or by attending and sponsoring our various fundraising events. Nationally, the state of charitable giving is decidedly mixed. 

Here is the overview we were presented with at the Leadership Forum:

    • From Giving USA 2019 research, Americans gave $427.71 billion to charity in 2018. Total charitable giving rose 0.7 percent measured in current dollars over the revised total of $424.74 billion contributed in 2017. Adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7 percent.

    • Giving by individuals is the strongest contributor to the success of nonprofits.  This past year, individual giving decreased as a percentage of total giving in 2018 to 68 percent (down from 70 percent in 2017) of total nonprofit budgets, despite achieving its third-highest total dollar amount on record, adjusted for inflation. This totaled an estimated $292.09 billion.

    • Giving by foundations had a record-breaking year, reaching the highest-ever dollar amount even when adjusted for inflation, and growing to its largest share (18%) of total giving to date in 2018. This was an estimated increase of 7.3 percent to $75.8 billion, with an increase of 4.7 percent, adjusted for inflation.

    • Giving by corporations experienced solid growth in 2018. This type of giving is highly responsive to changes in corporate pre-tax dollars and GDP, and its year-over-year trend lines tend to be more turbulent as a result. This equaled out to be an increase of 5.4 percent, totaling $20.05 billion, an increase of 2.9 percent in 2018, adjusted for inflation.

    • Giving by bequest totaled an estimated $39.71 billion in 2018, remaining flat with a 0 percent increase from 2017 (a 2.3 percent decline, adjusted for inflation). A bequest is a financial term describing the act of giving assets such as stocks, bonds, jewelry, and cash, to individuals or organizations, through the provisions of a will or an estate plan. 

As we approach the end of 2019, remember that year-end giving is also the greatest opportunity for nonprofits to meet their fundraising goals. Approximately 31 percent of all annual giving occurs in December and approximately 12 percent of all annual giving occurs in the last three days of December.

As you plan ahead for your own giving, remember that your donation can make the world of difference for an organization.  

Please consider providing some support for the nonprofit of your choice as we approach 2020. We need your support to continue the good work done in our communities across the state.

NOTE: Dorman, chief executive officer (CEO) at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA), writes occasionally for CapitolBeatOK.