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Giving USA 2021 Insights

Seasoned fundraisers understand that wishful thinking doesn’t generate generous gifts. We have long since given up on fairy godmothers and magical genies in the bottle. Today, our wishes are for Mackenzie Scott, Melinda French Gates or even Warren Buffett to fill our agency’s bank account so we have our fairy tale ending.

Ultra-High-Net-Worth Donors

Wishes for some organizations did come true last year. Based on date from Giving USA latest report, ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) donors contributed 3.1% of all giving or $14.9B to various nonprofit organizations across the country. Unsolicited, unexpected donations from ultra-wealthy donors is officially a trend in the nonprofit sector.

As amazing as their generosity is, let’s put this in context:

  • $485 billion donated in 2021

  • $327 billion donated by individuals

  • $91 billion donate by foundations

  • $46 billion donated by bequests

  • $21 billion donated by corporations

Collectively, individual people are very generous, even giving beyond their lifetime by including bequests (donations) in their will or estate plan. This is despite the lack of tax break incentives for the middle class.


We’ve all heard the news stories about whether or not we are already in a recession. The unfortunate reality is that we only know we’ve been in a recession in hindsight, when the economists study the numbers. As fundraisers, we need to be sensitive to our donors’ unease about a possible economic downturn. And, at the same time, keep in mind that historically philanthropic giving only declines by one – three percent during a recession. The exception was the 2007-2009 recession.


Four percent of all giving in 2021 came from corporations, so it makes sense to concentrate on the individual donor and foundations. But corporate giving should not be ignored. We see more companies aligning with social justice and diversity causes and looking for volunteer opportunities for their employees.

Trends come and go. Recessions, stock values, and wages rise and fall. As fundraisers, keep in mind why we are raising money and for whom. We should also remember to be aware of the challenges some of our donors’ face; be consistent with our messages and stories about our mission, and to be gracious in our gratitude toward our donors.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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