Changes in Washington Are Fueling a Charitable Giving Boost

Community needs and robust market performance contribute to giving decisions

Forty-five percent of experienced donors in a new survey said they expected to increase their charitable giving this year, while only 7% expected to give less than last year, according to Exponent Philanthropy, an association of some 2,000 funders.

Of the 480 members who participated in the organization’s early September Pulse Check survey, 19% cited the current political and regulatory environment as influencing their 2017 giving.

The findings were consistent with a Pulse Check conducted in late April, in which 22% of the same population said they “expect to make changes to their 2017 giving as a direct result of recent changes in Washington.”

In addition, 82% of respondents in the earlier survey agreed or strongly agreed with this statement: “In light of recent changes in Washington, I expect philanthropy to play a more important role in our society moving forward.”

Exponent Philosophy said the phrase “changes in Washington” referred to an aggressive congressional agenda, the potential for sweeping policy changes and the unconventional style of the Trump administration.

Respondents in the new survey cited these other factors as contributing to their 2017 giving decisions:

  • Community needs – 43%
  • Market performance – 31%
  • Desire to maximize impact – 28%

“We are not surprised to see that charitable giving will increase in 2017 given the performance of financial markets and a preponderance of need both domestically and abroad,” Exponent Philosophy’s chief executive Henry Berman said in a statement.

“That said, it’s clear that all the factors that have made 2017 anything but a normal year is figuring into our members’ giving — across the political spectrum — and that many are responding by stepping up their giving.”

Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable, a donor-advised fund sponsor, recently predicted that 2017 would be a historic year for philanthropy.

Exponent Philanthropy said in the statement that its Pulse Check surveys are internal yardsticks it uses to gauge membership opinions on important and timely topics. It collects information anonymously and does not make the full surveys available to the public.

The new survey also showed that despite an ever-changing landscape of societal need and funding outlets, experienced donors preferred to give to institutions and nonprofits where an existing connection exists.

Less than 3% of respondents said they would be "mostly giving to organizations not previously supported.”

Thirty-two percent of survey respondents said they would give at least half of their full annual contribution during the last two months of the year, while an additional 27% they would give between 26% and 50% in November and December.

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