Tips for Charitable Giving

Give strategically to maximize your philanthropic impact.

Create a mission statement

Before you give, think about what you want your gift to accomplish. Identify the causes you care most about and research to find the best charities carrying out that type of work. Taking the time to plan and create a strategic approach to will give you the biggest philanthropic bang for your charitable buck.

Research your options

Look up the charity or charities you’re thinking about supporting—Charity Navigator, Guidestar and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are useful resources for donors who want to research charities. Don’t be afraid to call the charity directly and ask questions about their programs and how your money will be spent. Legitimate organizations will be happy to speak to potential new donors.

Make your plan

Decide how much you can give through the year and stick to your budget. To make the biggest impact, give bigger gifts to fewer organizations and stick with the same organizations for the long haul. If you continue to give to the same charity year after year, your donations will provide a consistent funding source that lets the charity focus more on programming than fundraising.

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
Best Practices for Charitable Giving