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The Changing Face of Charitable Giving

I don’t look like I did in my 20’s. I’ve added a few more wrinkles, thinner hair and a thicker body. I’ve changed, and so has charitable giving.

For one, there are more choices than ever. As the Atlas for Giving notes, the number of non-profits has increased by 50% since 2002.

Technology, as in so many other areas of life, is producing profound changes. These changes include data mining, crowd funding, and online giving.

A less noticeable change has been the motivation for giving. It used to be that giving was focused upon religious institutions. Faith was the bedrock of all giving. In Christian circles, their giving focused upon the local church and missionary efforts and reflected a steadfast loyalty. But times are changing.

The Pew Research Center notes that a younger generation has arisen with different religious habits. Less of them are going to church than ever before. As church attendance declines, we are seeing the cracks in religious giving—particularly at the local church level.

With giving to religion decreasing, people are still giving, but they’re giving to different causes. The diversity of causes now includes the arts, culture, social venture, and the environment.

The potential for giving remains huge:  as much as $41 trillion of wealth transfer is expected to occur before the year 2055. Not all of this wealth will be inherited. Some will go to charity.

With all this change, donor advised funds continue to pick up an ever-increasing share of the giving pie. They reflect the idea of simplicity, anonymity, and flexibility.  They are an indirect form of giving. The Atlas for Giving reports that 6.4% of all giving went to donor advised funds.

In spite of all the changes, some aspects of giving remain the same. The National Philanthropic Trust tells us that 72% of charitable giving is still driven by individuals. Giving as a percentage of income continues to hover in the 2% range. Giving increases as the market performs well but goes down when it does not. People are still moved by great causes and stories that reflect a spirit of caring.

We’ll continue to see the face of giving change. There is tremendous opportunity ahead, and recognizing how it is changing already can help us shape the future.

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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