Total giving fell 3.4% in 2022 to $499.3 billion in current dollars, a drop of 10.5% when adjusted for inflation. The decline comes at a time when many nonprofits, especially ones providing services to those in need, report an increase in requests for help.
However, Josh Birkholz, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the report and provides data and insights about donation trends, said the results are actually much better than they could have been considering the tough economic climate of late 2022.
“I go back and forth on whether it’s encouraging or discouraging,” Birkholz told The Associated Press in an interview. “There was a 20 to 25% decline in the stock market and an 8% inflation rate, but Americans still gave nearly a half trillion dollars.”
Those 2022 donations came after two record-setting years for charitable giving, driven by the unprecedented needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and the Giving USA report’s lead researcher. It’s a sign of continued generosity, though there are some areas of concern.
“At the beginning of the 21st century, two thirds of Americans gave,” Osili said. “Today, that is down to under 50% for the first time. So giving has grown, but fewer people are participating.”
The downturn in giving has led to issues at Community Help in Park Slope, better known as CHiPS, as it has in many charities across the country. The Brooklyn, New York, nonprofit operates a soup kitchen and food pantry, as well as supporting single mothers and their infants.
“We saw inflation rise and, with that, we saw more working class individuals on our lines,” said Shanice Brown, CHiPS development director. “Donations declined -- and donated food as well — because as the price of things increase, people need more and so they donate less.”
CHiPS’ issues are compounded by the number of asylum seekers that are currently housed near the charity in Brooklyn. While CHiPS was providing 275 warm meals a day at this time last year, these days it is offering more than 400 meals daily. And sometimes, they simply run out of food.
“When we run out of hot meals, we still provide sandwiches,” said Brown, who has been collaborating with other nonprofits and food suppliers to try to make ends meet. “Anyone who comes to our door walks away with something.”
Even large-scale nonprofits have had to come up with new solutions to battle inflation’s effects on their resources.
Jared Perry, chief revenue officer at Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, said that while donations to the foundation, which grants the wishes of children fighting critical illnesses, were up slightly in 2022, they are currently declining in some areas this year. And those drops come while Make-A-Wish copes with increased costs for travel, which is involved in about 75% of the wishes they grant.
“I think we’ve seen a 37% increase in rental car prices and that translates to a cost we have to bear,” said Perry, adding that Make-A-Wish has stepped up calls for supporters to donate their airline miles and hotel points in order to help stretch its funding. The foundation has also turned to partners in the travel industry for more help.
The need, Perry said, is also an opportunity for Make-A-Wish and other nonprofits to engage individual donors and appeal to them for help. “The message we’re going to continue to send out is: There are easy ways for people to get to get involved with Make-A-Wish, whether that be through volunteering or certainly by donating,” he said. “For every wish that we’re granting, there’s another wish waiting.”
Jon Bergdoll, associate director of data partnerships at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and the lead analyst for the Giving USA report, said the long-running trend of “dollars up, donors down” in philanthropy offers potential growth for nonprofits who can engage those currently not giving.
Decision makers for donations are “not mom and pop donors, they’re wealthy individuals,” Bergdoll said. “That is indicative of where the money is coming from now versus 30 or 40 years ago.”
According to the Giving USA report, 64% of donations in 2022 came from individual donors, 21% from foundations, 9% from bequests, generally through a will or estate plan, and 6% from corporations. In 2022, corporations donated 0.9% of their pre-tax profits in the United States, though Bergdoll said the report does not track whether multi-national corporations donated more in other countries.
For CHiPS, they are simply hoping for help wherever they can find it. Brown said many foundations have told her they are not accepting new grantees this year because of the economy and other foundations that donated in 2020 and 2021 are saying, “Don’t ask us again until 2024.”
“People have less, so they’re concerned about themselves and that’s understandable,” Brown said. “But there are so many ways the community can help.”