American giving increases


By Dan Davis

Americans — like those of us here in Jackson County — gave more to charitable causes in 2020 despite or perhaps even because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $471.44 billion to U.S. charities last year.

The report, released earlier this summer, notes that total charitable giving grew 5.1 percent measured in current dollars over the $448.66 billion contributed in 2019. Adjusted for inflation, total giving increased 3.8 percent.

Giving USA is part of a public service initiative of The Giving Institute and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI in Indianapolis.

Here at home, the Community Foundation of Jackson County recorded a stellar year in terms of gifts from individuals and businesses, totaling more than $1.17 million. It was a blessed year, with many folks stepping up because of the pandemic, its resulting economic challenges and many uncertainties. Existing donors felt the need to give more, and new donors felt the need to start giving.

Much the same was seen elsewhere.

“Unprecedented developments in 2020 including the global pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis and efforts to advance racial justice created intense, widespread need and significantly increased the demand upon nonprofit organizations,” said Laura MacDonald, chair of Giving USA Foundation. “Remarkably, generous giving coupled with the stock market turnaround in the final months of the year boosted contributions. As a result, 2020 is the highest year of charitable giving on record.”

She cautioned, however, the nation’s overall economic picture remained mixed.

“It is important to recognize that the picture for individual households and organizations may have looked quite different, with many facing hardship even though total giving posted strong growth,” MacDonald said.

The same could be said here at home. Many Jackson County nonprofits, including many of those supported with grants from the Foundation, struggled to meet growing demand for their services. Food insecurity — hunger — and homelessness increased as did the demand of mental health services, to name just a few challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Passage of the CARES Act and the possibility of an approved COVID-19 vaccine helped markets rebound in the second half of the year, when most charitable giving occurs. By the end of 2020, the S&P 500, which is closely related to giving, grew 16.3 percent, and personal income, a factor that is significantly linked to individual giving, grew 6.1 percent. Giving by foundations skyrocketed, and giving by individuals and bequests also showed growth. Giving by corporations, which is more closely tied to GDP, declined.

Giving USA reports charitable giving grew from three of the four sources of giving and to seven of the nine major types of recipient charitable organizations in 2020. As always, the experiences of individual charitable organizations may have varied.

“Nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals played a role with significant innovation in fundraising methods and donor outreach in order to raise greater financial support under difficult circumstances,” said Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “In addition, we saw a wide range of more informal philanthropic responses by individuals in 2020, including mutual aid efforts and person-to-person giving.”

Locally, the Foundation established the Jackson County COVID-19 Response Fund to help deliver needed grant dollars to nonprofits struggling as a result of the pandemic and the increase in demand for their services. That fund paid out $29,147.09 in the form of 16 grants to assist COVID-19 relief efforts locally.

Ted Grossnickle, chairman of The Giving Institute, said giving last year amid “complex and challenging developments serves as a reminder of the unique way Americans respond to local and national opportunities and needs — in the moment.”

He said giving to five of nine categories grew by 9 percent or more. Giving to religion, education, human services, foundations, public-society benefit organizations, international affairs and environmental and animal organizations all increased; giving to health and to arts, culture and humanities saw decreases.

As noted earlier, overall giving to the Community Foundation of Jackson County increased in during 2020, with gifts totaling $1.17 million, although the actual number of gifts was down.

That increase in giving, we believe, is a result of our community stepping up in a time of need and a recognition of the work the Foundation does, playing a vital role in partnering with other nonprofits performing important work across our community. We also, of course, value, understand and appreciate the giving of our donors. Without the generosity of those individuals, organizations and businesses, our work could not take place.

Thank you for giving. Thank you for supporting our community. Thank you for supporting the Community Foundation of Jackson County.

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