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Giving trends fueling Bonterra’s vision of 3% by ‘33

Ben Miller
SVP, data science
November 20, 2023
A diverse group of coworkers collaborates around a table on a project.

Earlier in November, I had a unique opportunity to visit the White House to push for the Charitable Act, an effort to incentivize more charitable giving.  

During the visit, I joined industry leaders from Association of Fundraising Professionals, Independent Sector, Charitable Giving Coalition, The Nonprofit Association, and some of the largest nonprofits in the U.S. In my role as chair of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), I provided contextual evidence of the overarching social good trends we have been tracking.  

I want to share some of the significant giving trends we discussed, their larger implications for the sector, and how they fuel Bonterra’s vision to dramatically boost giving.  

What a drop in engagement and participation means for us 

First, it is important to understand exactly where nonprofits receive their funding. Nonprofit Quarterly’s last Illustrate Nonprofit Economy report showed that in 2015 the federal government contributed $491 billion to the nonprofit community, compared to $373 billion given by individuals, foundations, and corporations that same year. A third source of funding, the largest, comes from program fees, which generate a whopping $1 trillion in funds. Most of the money from program fees goes to hospitals, nursing homes, and higher education.  

While program fees are an important part of the funding, I will focus more on the contributions made by the individuals, foundations, and corporations — which have grown by 34% since 2015 to $499 billion in 2022 according to Giving USA. The FEP’s data reinforces the findings and reveals some concerning trends for the social good industry. For example, the number of donors has declined by 12% over the same time period. It is this drop in engagement and participation that is cause for most concern. Some additional findings that point to the larger declines are:  

  • The 2022 FEP’s fourth quarter analysis shows that 74% of the donations are generated from just 2.6% of donors.  

  • AmeriCorps reports that the volunteer rate dropped to about 23% in 2021, down from over 27% in 2002. 

  • The Philanthropy Panel Study out of the Lily School of Philanthropy says giving participation dropped to just under 50% in 2018 compared to over 66% in 2000. 

  • The General Social Survey (GSS) tracked a 25% decline in Americans socializing more than once a year with their neighbor.  

These are the real challenges we are facing as a sector, and they closely align with the discussions we have at Bonterra.  

Our vision to change the giving trends 

Scott Brighton, CEO of Bonterra, is committed to a vision that we are rallying every doer of good around.   

Trust is a significant threat to the community of generosity. Our focus is on building lasting relationships, ensuring high efficiency, and maintaining strong visibility, creating a virtuous trust cycle that leads to the peak impact for the social good ecosystem. This is how we plan to achieve Bonterra's vision of increasing generosity to 3% of U.S. GDP by 2033. 

Learn more about how Bonterra plans to achieve our 3% by ’33 vision.  

Ready to Get Started?

Written by

Ben Miller
Ben Miller
SVP, data science
  • Philanthropists
  • Foundations & grantmakers
  • Nonprofits