Where Is Giving Going in 2018?

Anytime you want to look ahead, it’s often helpful to look back. With 2017 in the books, we won’t know for quite some time the final results for charitable giving. The last full year of numbers (2016) from Giving USA was reported in the July 2017 Chronicle of Philanthropy.

What did 2016 tell us?

Total giving: $390 billion dollars. For that amount, givers were broken down as follows:

  • Individuals—$281.9 billion
  • Foundations—$59.3 billion
  • Bequests—$30.4 billion
  • Corporations—$18.6 billion

While those numbers all sound positive, they don’t tell the entire story. From 2014 to 2016, the growth rate for giving has fallen from 8.1% to a paltry 1.4%. Of course those numbers reflect a rather tepid economy.

Certainly with the Trump presidency, the stock market has exploded. 2017 is likely to be a record year for publicly traded stock gifts, which certainly spells optimism at least for the early part of 2018.

However, what remains uncertain is how changes in the tax code will affect charitable giving in the short run, let alone the long term. While many are quick to say that giving is not fueled by the charitable deduction, it is equally naïve to say that giving will remain at the same levels regardless of the levels of the deduction.

Undoubtedly, the robust stock market of 2017 cannot continue. The question remains how long it will continue. Under any circumstances, the real message that should be preached by all charities and churches is that a generous life is a joyful life—regardless of deduction, stock market, or the overall economy.

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