Philanthropy

Philanthropy Trend: Donor Dropouts and Decreases

Here’s a pretty disturbing summary of American philanthropy trends from 2015: In a Slate article posted yesterday, Helaine Olen notes that [emphasis mine]:

Americans gave a record-setting $373 billion to charitable endeavors in 2015, according to the Giving USA Foundation’s annual philanthropic survey. When the Institute for Policy Studies crunched the data to discover who exactly was giving what, it discovered that itemized charitable donations from households with earnings of at least $10 million annually increased by 104 percent in the decade between 2003 and 2013. Even those with low-six-figure earnings upped their giving—those in households earning at least $100,000 increased their donation budgets by 40 percent in the same period. But those earning less than $100,000 did the exact opposite: Their contributions declined by 34 percent.

Those are astounding increases and decreases (even considering it’s a ten-year period), but as she notes elsewhere in the article, it’s the decreases–and the disappearance—that are the most worrying. The report from left-leaning IPS noted that “The rate of decline in low-dollar donors correlates strongly with indicators of overall economic security in the United States…”

Olen’s article was prompted by the big numbers #GivingTuesday touts and highlights how putting your eggs all in one basketone donor, one event, or even a fewcan leave you with an empty basket when the economy takes another dive. Talking heads are saying Trump’s tax breaks for the wealthy will leave high net-worth individuals with more money to give, but others point out that elimination of the estate tax will mean more to give to heirs and could cost the government $275 billion in revenue over a decade.

I’m placing my bet on studies by the Congressional Budget Office and Treasury, which indicate repeal of the estate tax would mean a dip in charitable giving. And that’s not even considering the recession we’re likely to see in the next few years! It also doesn’t take into consideration Trump’s likely decimation of the social safety nets the vulnerable live on.