In March 2020, COVID-19 reached American soil, quickly resulting in a major healthcare crisis and a severe economic downturn. As the nonprofit sector is often considered one of the safety nets of society, many were concerned about how the pandemic and economic shutdown would impact how the pandemic and economic shutdown would financially and programmatically impact nonprofits and those they serve.
In spite of business closures, disruptions in manufacturing and distribution supply chains, compounding disasters, and record unemployment, donor support remained steadfast. While much of the philanthropic sector awaits Giving USA’s annual report, some sources (including Kiplinger) are postulating that 2020 resulted in record-breaking generosity. Charity Navigator, which is a barometer of donation interest, experienced its highest level of traffic and giving activity through our Giving Basket (see our report on Giving Tuesday 2020).
With a change in administration, we wanted to see if the goodwill continued during President Biden’s first 100 days. For the purposes of this analysis:
• We will use the period of January 20 - April 20, 2021, and look at Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket donor activity. The Giving Basket allows for visitors to Charity Navigator to make donations to one or multiple 501(c)(3) nonprofits listed on our site in a single checkout.
• We will provide highlights of comparative giving activity prior to President Biden’s inauguration.
• We will also compare donor giving within President Biden’s first 100 days and Former President Trump’s first 100 days, January 20, 2017 - April 20, 2017.
• We will only reference Star-rated charities. Although we have two rating systems—the Star Rating System and the Encompass Rating System—the Encompass Rating System was not launched until July 2020. For the benefit of a fair comparison, we will not include a system that was unavailable to donors in 2017 during President Trump’s term.
• Finally, the category/causes noted are based on Charity Navigator’s own classifications. For an explanation of how we classify organizations visit this page.
How Much Money?
Perhaps the question on most minds is, “How much money did charities receive?” Please keep in mind the numbers below are only donations through Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket, and do not include any donations directly to the organizations or through other platforms.
Between January 20, 2021 to April 20, 2021:
• $3.6+ million was donated to 6,900+ charities benefited, with the top three categories/causes being:
• International/Development and Relief Services: $543,000+ (14.8%), the largest share of donations
• Human Services/Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Distribution: $318,000+ (8.6%)
• Human Services/Social Services: $304,000+ (8.2%)
• 13,000 unique users donated
• 39,000 donations were made to charities
Note: $586,289 was donated to Encompass rated or unrated charities. Please see the 4th entry in the Introduction above.
First 100 Days: 2021 vs. 2017
Comparing donor giving within President Biden’s first 100 days in 2021 to Former President Trump’s first 100 days in 2017, we wondered if giving during a pandemic would be steady, on par with the giving of four years before, or lower. We were surprised at the stark difference, even during an economic crisis:
• Since we're comparing across a wide time range, we looked at the overall growth of the Giving Basket from 2017 to 2020 (the last full year we can compare to) to level set and highlight the general growth outside of any comparison of the two years.
• Comparing the full years, 2017 to 2020, our Giving Basket saw the following growth:
• 38% increase in donations
• 47% increase in dollars
• 90% increase in charities receiving a donation
• 10% increase in donors
• In July 2020, we launched our Encompass Rating System which added ratings for 150,000+ organizations to our existing 9,000+ Star Ratings. This boosted awareness of Charity Navigator and these newly rate charities which we do not account for in this analysis.
• There was 66% more giving in 2021 than that of 2017—$3.6+ million in 2021 versus $1.2+ million in 2017
• This increase goes well beyond the observed growth of dollars donated since 2017.
• 170% more charities benefited from giving in 2021. 6,914 charities received gifts in 2021 versus 2,560 charities in 2017
• This well outpaces any continued growth we would have expected even accounting for the 90% increase when comparing full years of 2017 to 2020.
• 56% more donors made 155% more donations in 2021 versus 2017.
• 13,393 donors vs. 5,873 donors, and 38,936 vs. 15,250 donations, respectively.
• This is 5 times larger growth in donors and 3 times larger growth in donations than we would attribute to natural growth when looking at the full year 2017 and 2020 numbers.
Categories and Causes
Given this overall increase in giving we wanted to look at what types of organizations saw changes in giving in 2021 versus those supported in 2017. Here are the highlights: During Biden’s first 100 days in 2021, the most obvious difference: Dollar amounts.
• Donors gave more dollars to nonprofits within the categories of Human Services and International in 2021 compared to Trump’s first 100 days in 2017.
• 2021 Human Services: $1.0+ million; International: $842,000+
• 2017 Human Services: $195,000+; International: $391,000+
• That’s a 418% increase in giving to Human Services; and a 115% increase in giving to International nonprofits
• Nonprofits in the Health category had stronger donations in 2021, experiencing a 91% increase over giving in 2017
• Human and Civil Rights saw a moderate 50% increase; from $152,000+ in 2017 to $229,000+ in 2021
Categories at a Glance 2017 vs 2021