Donations to Largest U.S. Charities Up 5.1 Percent, Study Finds

Giving to the largest U.S. charities in fiscal year 2014 increased 5.1 percent on a year-over-year basis, with donor-advised funds continuing to gain on traditional charities, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

According to the twenty-fifth edition of the Philanthropy 400 list, which ranks the largest charities by fundraising revenue, United Way Worldwide barely held on to its first-place ranking, raising some $3.87 billion in 2014, practically unchanged from its results in 2013, followed by donor-advised fund provider Fidelity Charitable, which raised $3.85 billion, up from $3.67 billion the previous year. The top rankings were dominated by DAF providers, including the Schwab Charitable Fund (no. 6), the National Christian Foundation (no. 9), Vanguard Charitable (no. 10), and the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund (no. 11), while the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which manages hundreds of donor-advised funds, ranked fifth. The American Red Cross, which had been a regular in the top ten for years and ranked ninth in 2013, following a surge of donations in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, fell to twenty-first in 2014.

The fact that major charities in the U.S. did not significantly increase their fundraising revenue in 2014, as has generally been the case over the last twenty-five years, may indicate that recovery from the Great Recession continues to be uneven, with a significant uptick in major gifts but not so much in smaller ones, Una Osili, director of research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, told the Chronicle. "We're also seeing this in higher education, too. Large gifts have increased over time, but participation rates in annual campaigns have started to decline."

Another possibility is that smaller charities may be able to more easily compete for donors in the age of online giving. "We're starting to see new philanthropy becoming more democratized," Osili said, "with smaller organizations also able to attract support...and the Internet making it much more feasible to support organizations of different sizes."

Among the foundations on the Philanthropy 400 list, community foundations saw the largest increase in private support (24.8 percent) in 2014, followed by public broadcasting (19.7 percent) and private colleges and universities (13.5 percent). The only declines were seen in education (-19.3 percent), social services (-7.6 percent), and arts and culture (-5.8 percent). An analysis of long-term trends also found that donor-advised funds and community foundations surged from 2 percent of total giving captured by the list in 1991 to 18 percent in 2014. In terms of rankings, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation has improved its position the most, rising from four hundred on the list in 1991 to fifty-six this year, while the Institute of International Education has fallen the furthest, from forty-six in 1991 to three hundred and eighty-second this year.

Heather Joslyn. "Big Charities Keep Raising More as the Donor-Advised Fund Boom Continues." Chronicle of Philanthropy 10/29/2015. "A Gold Mine of Data on a Quarter Century of Giving." Chronicle of Philanthropy Data Table 10/29/2015.