Using Giving USA 2022 to Shape Your FY 22/23 Fundraising Strategies

compiled by Jim Bush, Jessica Browning, and Nikki Rach

Today is the day! Giving USA 2022 findings have been released. The highly anticipated yearly publication can help organizations choose how and where to use their resources in order to make the biggest impact.

Find out what trends in charitable giving emerged in 2021. Which sector received the most charitable dollars? Who gave the most? Here are our five key takeaways from Giving USA 2022.

(Giving USA, 2022)

Key Takeaway #1: Total charitable giving grew 4 percent in 2021 to $484.85 billion but was flat when adjusted for inflation.

To put this into context, total giving in 2020 was $471.44 billion, while total giving in 2019 was $449.64 billion.

What does this mean for fundraisers today?
Philanthropy is alive and well. We can confidently celebrate the generosity of those who fuel the visions of our organizations and rely on their investment, even in difficult times.

Key Takeaway #2: Philanthropy’s big winners of 2021 were the arts and health.

In 2020, many donors switched their giving away from sectors such as the arts and healthcare. Instead, they focused their giving on community service organizations and academic institutions undertaking Covid research.

This past year, many donors returned to their favored causes. Giving to the arts increased by 27.5 percent, while giving to health-related causes increased by nearly 8 percent. Giving to human services and education declined back to more normal levels in 2021 but remained above 2019 levels.

What does this mean for fundraisers today?
For arts and healthcare, stewardship of new donors—or donors who increased their giving in the past year—should be a priority.

For human services organizations in particular, it’s not too late to focus on 2020’s new donors.Fortunately, 2020’s new donors renewed at surprisingly high rates in 2021 (see Takeaway #5). Their retention represents a great opportunity for moves management—or to shift them from a once-a-year giver to a monthly giver. And for community service organizations considering a capital campaign, now is an ideal time. A campaign will engage your new donors in ways that encourage them to become long-term investors

Key Takeaway #3: Don’t believe those who say that giving from individuals is a thing of the past.

Yes, the percentage of all contributions that came from individuals fell from 69 percent in 2019 to 67 percent in 2021. But total giving from individuals increased from $309.66 billion to $326.87 billion in 2021. When factoring in bequests (the ultimate gift an individual can give), total giving from individuals rose from $352.87 in 2019 to $372.88 in 2021.

With an increase in giving of nearly 24 percent, corporate giving may look attractive. But it’s not time to shift your focus away from individuals. Corporate giving represents only 4 percent of total giving and is always more influenced by the economy; 2021 rates of corporate giving were impacted by a 37.4 percent rise in corporate pre-tax profits and a 10 percent increase in GDP.

What does this mean for fundraisers today?
Always stay focused on building relationships with your individual donors. Spend more time cultivating and stewarding your existing donors than you do on acquiring new donors. If you don’t have a planned giving program, start one. Do not be tempted by the rise in corporate giving or large foundation giving. Your biggest ROI will always come from efforts centered around the individuals who are motivated to give by emotions and a desire to leave a legacy of impact.

Key Takeaway #4: Giving to education declined nearly 3 percent over 2020, but there are reasons to be optimistic.

The decline should be seen as more of a reset after record education giving in 2020. Against 2019, giving to education grew 10 percent ($64.11 billion in 2019 to $70.79 billion in 2021).

There’s more good news in the data. According to the Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), alumni giving increased 10.8 percent in 2021 (Kaplan, 2022).

Community colleges finally got the love they deserve. According to CASE’s VSE survey, giving to community colleges increased by 53 percent in academic fiscal year 2021 compared to academic fiscal year 2020 (Kaplan, 2022).

What does this mean for fundraisers today?
Ride the wave of increased alumni engagement. Make sure the 2022-2023 academic year features ample opportunities (both in-person and virtual) to connect with alumni. Regardless of what happens with the economy, continue to engage parents, alumni, and community members in the life of your institution.

Make sure to capitalize on donor-advised funds. 84 percent of independent schools received a gift or pledge from a DAF in 2020 or 2021, so it’s critical that you remind donors that a gift from a DAF is an option. Additionally, 29 percent of all DAF grants go to education while only 14 percent of all philanthropic contributions go to education. To better understand DAFs, especially as they relate to major gifts, check out Fundraisers’ Guide to Securing DAF Grants.

Key Takeaway #5: Giving continues to be top-heavy.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s Quarterly Fundraising Report (January 1 – December 31, 2021), the total number of donors in 2021 declined by 5.7 percent. Fewer donors are giving more dollars, mirroring the wealth inequality seen across the country.

Among the FEP report’s other findings:

  • The number of new retained donors (those who gave to an organization for the first time in 2020 and gave again in 2021) increased 26 percent—a step in the right direction for donor retention. 
  • Donors at the lowest level (giving below $100) saw the biggest decline (down 9.3 percent), while the number of major and mega donors (those giving above $5,000) only saw a 0.2 percent decrease.

What does this mean for fundraisers today?

Make investments in your mid-level donors over the next 12 months. We believe the shift towards bigger gifts from fewer donors will eventually plateau, but not in the short term. Your mid-level donors today have the greatest potential to be your major donors in the future. 

Pay attention to a range of giving vehicles. Donors, particularly sophisticated donors giving major gifts, are diversifying the way they give. Be sure to consider DAFs (from community foundations and national organizations), planned gifts, and family foundations as sources of contributions.

About Giving USA

Giving USA is the longest-running, most comprehensive report on philanthropy in the United States. It is presented by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Giving Institute (of which the Winkler Group is a member).

Winkler Group is a proud sponsor of this year’s Giving USA report. Principal and President Jim Bush is a current member of the Editorial Review Board (ERB). Principal and EVP Jessica Browning is a former ERB member.

About the Authors

Jim Bush
, Winkler Group Principal and President, has been a fundraiser for more than 30 years. Recognized as an expert in his field, he’s helped nonprofits, universities, and healthcare systems raise more than $300 million and increase their organizational capacity through strategic planning. A noted lecturer, trainer, and teacher, Jim’s articles on fundraising have been published in leading nonprofit journals. He serves on the Giving USA Editorial Review Board and holds a bachelor’s degree from Elon University.

Jessica Browning, Winkler Group Principal and Executive Vice President, has helped lead nonprofit organizations for more than 25 years. An award-winning case statement writer, Jessica is a specialist in donor communications and a former member of the Giving USA Editorial Review Board. Jessica received a B.A. from Duke University as well as an M.A. and M.B.A. from the College of William & Mary.

Nikki Rach, Vice President of Client Services, is widely regarded as a thought leader in the field of professional fundraising. Nikki Rach brings over 25 years of experience as a successful fundraiser and nonprofit executive to Winkler Group clients. A graduate of Concordia University, Ms. Rach is also an active community volunteer.


Fundraising Effectiveness Project. (2022, April 7). Quarterly fundraising report: Year-to-Date nonprofit sector trends 01/01/2021 – 12/31/21. AFP Global.

Giving USA. (2022, June 21). Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2021. Giving USA.

Kaplan, A. (2022, February 16). Voluntary support of education key findings, 2020–21. Council for Advancement and Support of Education.


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