2016 Outlook for U.S. Giving Weakens Amid Uncertainty

Against a backdrop of market volatility and economic uncertainty, charitable giving in the U.S. in 2016 is expected to fall short of the increase recorded last year, a report from the Atlas of Giving finds.

According to the latest monthly forecast (14 pages, PDF) from the Dallas-based forecasting group, charities are likely to see total giving range from a decline of 0.9 percent on a year-over-year basis to a modest 1.4 percent increase, well below the 4.6 percent increase seen in 2015 and the 2.6 percent increase for 2016 that the group projected in February. Giving for the first quarter of 2016 was flat compared to the first quarter of 2015, at $118.82 billion; last year, first-quarter giving was up 8.4 percent on a year-over-year basis. In January, giving fell by 0.6 percent from the previous month — marking the first month-over-month decline since the Great Recession — followed by an anemic 0.1 percent increase in February. Giving in March, however, rose 3.7 percent, as the stock market rebounded from a nearly 10 percent decline in February.

Stock market volatility has been the key factor in the tempered outlook for giving and, along with uncertainty surrounding the presidential election, has prompted many donors to hold back, said Atlas of Giving CEO Rob Mitchell.

"We're dealing with some gathering clouds that could escalate into a perfect storm for some charities," said Mitchell. "We have seen extreme stock market swings, and a wild presidential race that is attracting attention and money. Add in other issues such as a lowered GDP forecast and a downturn in church giving, and you end up with an uncertain climate for fundraisers."