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Giving USA 2017: Four Key Trends

Giving to education in the U.S. has reached a new high, according to the recently released Giving USA 2017 report. Growth was fueled in part by the multi-million-dollar gift trend, but also progress in online fundraising and giving to community colleges.

CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham called this a "cause for celebration."

"[This is] a tribute to the hard work of institutional leadership, staff, volunteers and alumni who are all working to advance their institutions," said Cunningham.

Across the U.S., organizations raised $390 billion in 2016—a 2.7 percent increase from 2016. Charitable giving from individuals, foundations and corporations all increased in 2016; in fact, the overall rise in total giving was spurred largely by giving from individuals, which rose nearly 4 percent, according to the report.

Fifteen percent of total giving supported education. For the seventh straight year, contributions to education rose, growing 3.6 percent from 2015 to 2016 to $59.77 billion. But educational giving didn't grow as much in 2016 as it has in the past, the report noted. In 2014 and 2015, it grew by more than 8 percent.

Cunningham joined a panel of experts in a Campbell & Company webinar during which she highlighted four other trends from the report that pertain to education and giving.

  • Online giving continues to grow. Crowdfunding, online Giving Days and using social media to bolster student philanthropy are all on the rise, according to the report. "This is a space we'll continue to watch as it grows," said Cunningham.
  • Stewardship is still king. Higher education, according to the report, remains the most popular philanthropic cause for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Though impressive, Cunningham pointed out, these gifts "do not happen overnight." Large gifts require stewardship and plenty of "time and energy" from advancement teams.
  • Community college fundraising is becoming more sophisticated. Giving to community colleges, according to the report, rose at a faster rate in 2016 than giving to other education institutions. That, said Cunningham, marks great progress. "‘Significant' gifts means different things at different institutions," she pointed out. "There are some really significant gifts coming in for community colleges because of the progress they are making [with fundraising operations]."
  • International giving is a new focus. As more U.S. institutions look overseas to recruit, that international focus will have implications for fundraising, said Cunningham, underlining that philanthropy knows no geographic borders.

For more insights, download the full Giving USA report. (CASE members receive 15 percent off with the code CASESAVE.)

This article is from the June 2017 BriefCASE issue of BriefCASE.
Please share your questions and comments with Pam Russell via e-mail at russell@case.org or by telephone at +1-202-478-5680.