Tips for Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving Strategies

With the choice of thousands of charities across the world, it can be daunting to choose where to spend your philanthropic capital with confidence that you will achieve an impact. Here are some high level tips for effective charitable giving:


  • Choose a cause. Many people choose to focus on a small number of causes. Before you give, think about what you want your philanthropy to accomplish. Take time to identify the cause or causes you care about most and consider where you feel most passionately about the need for change.
  • Pick a charitable organisation. Consider whether you want to make a difference in your local community or contribute to achieving change further afield. Then, research your options. Look up the various charities you are thinking about supporting and don’t be afraid to contact them directly to ask them questions about their programmes and how your money will be spent.
  • Make a plan. Decide how much you would like to give and try to stick to your budget. Larger gifts to fewer organisations will have a bigger impact than lots of smaller gifts to many different charities. Remember that unrestricted donations towards the core costs of running a charity are essential, so you may want to consider this.
  • Stay in contact. Staying in touch with your grantees helps to understand first-hand how the organisations you have chosen to support are changing things for the better – social change takes time! Finally, your support does not only have to be about money – as you get to know a grantee better you might consider supporting them with your time and skills.
About Individual and Family Philanthropy Options
  • Americans gave $410.02 billion in 2017. This reflects a 5.2% increase from 2016. [1]
  • Corporate giving in 2017 increased to $20.77 billion—an 8.0% increase from 2016. [1]
  • Foundation giving in 2017 increased to $66.90 billion—a 6.0% increase from 2016. [1]
  • In 2017, the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals at $286.65 billion, or 70% of total giving; followed by foundations ($66.90 billion/16%), bequests ($35.70 billion/9%), and corporations ($20.77 billion/5%). [1]
  • In 2017, the majority of charitable dollars went to religion (31%), education (14%), human services (12%), grantmaking foundations (11%), and health (9%). [1]
  • Arts organizations experienced the largest giving increase in 2017, receiving 8.7% more than the previous year. [1]
  • Charitable giving accounted for 2.1% of gross domestic product in 2016. [1]
  • Historically, charitable giving rises about one-third as fast as the stock market. [2]
  • Approximately 91% of high net worth households give to charity. [3]
  • On average, high net worth donors gave $25,509 to charity in 2015. By comparison, general population households gave $2,520 on average. [3]
Charitable Organizations
  • In May 2015, there were approximately 1,521,052 charitable organizations in the United States. [4]
  • There are an estimated 316,532 congregations in the United States in May 2015. [4]
  • Sources of revenue for tax-exempt organizations in 2012 were program service revenues, including government contracts and fees (73%), contributions, gifts, & government grants (21%) and lastly, dues, special event income, rental income and net sales from goods (6%). [4]
  • Approximately 63 million Americans — 25 percent of the adult population — volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference. [5]
  • The 2016 national value of volunteer time is $24.14 per hour. In other words, Americans contribute $193 billion of their time to our communities. [5]
  • The top four national volunteer activities are food collection or distribution (24.2%), fundraising or selling items to raise money (23.9%), general labor or transportation (18.8%), and tutoring or teaching (17.9%). [6]
  • The top four volunteer areas are for religious (34.1%), educational (26%), social service (14.9%), and health (7.3%) organizations. [6]
Donor-Advised Funds
  • There were 284,965 donor-advised fund accounts in 2016. [7]
  • Donor-advised funds held $85.15 billion in assets in 2016. [7]
  • Annual contributions into donor-advised funds were $23.27 billion in 2016. [7]
  • Donors recommended grants from donor-advised funds totaling $15.75 billion to charities in 2016. [7]
  • Average donor-advised fund account size was $298,809 in 2016. [7]
  1. Giving USA 2018
  2. The Foundation Center
  3. The 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy conducted in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy
  4. The Urban Institute
  5. Independent Sector
  6. The Corporation for National and Community Service
  7. National Philanthropic Trust – Donor Advised Fund Report 2017