Analysis: Donor Generosity During President Biden's First 100 Days

Trends in giving during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to the same time period during the Trump administration in 2017

May 24, 2021

Analysis: Donor Generosity During President Biden's First 100 Days Header Image

Introduction

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:
  1. 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. 
  2. We will provide highlights of comparative giving activity prior to President Biden’s inauguration.  
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 rated 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.
  1. 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
  2. Nonprofits in the Health category had stronger donations in 2021, experiencing a 91% increase over giving in 2017
  3. 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

 
Top 10 Causes in 2021
 
After looking at the categories donors gravitated to the most, we wished to drill down further to cause areas, which are the next level down in the hierarchy we use to organize Star rated charities.  Of the top 10 causes that garnered the most support by donors in 2021 during President Biden’s first 100 days, how did they compare to Former President Trump’s first 100 days in 2017?  Was giving for these causes the same?
 
  1. The numbers were vastly different with huge percentage increases across the board:
    • 863% increase in giving to Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Distribution, an astounding jump: $318,000+ in 2021 vs. $33,000+ in 2017
    • 751% increase in giving to Multipurpose Human Service Organizations: $159,000+ in 2021 vs. $18,000+ in 2017
    • 367% increase in giving to Humanitarian Relief Supplies:  $198,000+ in 2021 vs. $42,000+ in 2017

       
  2. Outside of the top 10 causes donors aligned with during President Biden’s first 100 days, we learned that the lowest level of donations in 2021 were to the following causes:
    1. Education and Policy Reform
    2. Special Education
    3. Adult Education Programs and Services
    4. Jewish Federations
    5. Libraries, Historical Societies and Landmark Preservation
       

Donors Favorites: Top 10 Nonprofits

Which nonprofits received the most donations through Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket during Biden’s first 100 days? 
  1. Doctors Without Borders, USA (★★★★)
  2. Feeding America (★★★★)
  3. Direct Relief (★★★★)
  4. Save the Children (★★★★)
  5. ALSAC - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (★★★★)
  6. Matthew 25: Ministries (★★★★)
  7. Equal Justice Initiative (★★★★)
  8. UNICEF USA (★★★)
  9. DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust (★★★★)
  10. Southern Poverty Law Center (★★★★)
     

2021 vs. 2017: Nonprofits with the Greatest Gains in Donations

While analyzing the data, we found several nonprofits that received a dramatic increase in support by our users in 2021 compared to 2017:
  1. North Texas Food Bank (★★★★) had the strongest gain in donations, an increase of 15,224%
  2. Gary Sinise Foundation (★★★★) had an increase of 10,943%
  3. First Nations Development Institute (★★★★) had an increase of 4,364%
  4. Matthew 25: Ministries (★★★★) had an increase of 3,818%
  5. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (★★★★) had an increase of 2,940%
We were also curious: Among nonprofits with the greatest increase in giving when comparing 2021 to 2017, were there any that also had the greatest increase in donations between 2020 (pre-pandemic) and 2021 (during the pandemic)?  
 
The top 5 charities seeing an increase in donations between January 20, 2020 and April 20, 2020 to those same dates in 2021 were:
  1. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (★★★★) had an increase of 1,693%
  2. First Nations Development Institute (★★★★) had an increase of 810%
  3. Equal Justice Initiative (★★★★) had an increase of 722%
  4. Catholic Medical Mission Board (★★★★) had an increase of 501%
  5. Southern Poverty Law Center (★★★★) had an increase of 303%
 

Conclusion

The activity through our Giving Basket demonstrates that, even during a year of severe economic challenge during a pandemic, Americans gave significantly to nonprofits that had the greatest impact in areas addressing human services and international needs.  
 
In 2017, during Former President Trump’s first 100 days, the U.S. and the rest of the world was not facing a global pandemic, which provides rationale for the 91% increase in giving to nonprofits within the Health category in 2021. Donors respond to crises in the here and now. 
 
Finally, there was a stark difference in giving during the first 100 days of both presidencies.  The overall increase in giving (66%) in 2021 compared to 2017 was surprising considering the economic situation facing average Americans.  
 
After analyzing this data, it is clear that donor generosity has been extraordinary. Even during the most challenging of times, donors support nonprofits whose missions help to do good in the world and make an impact.
 

 
Authored by Stacy Steele, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Matt Dragon, Director of Engineering. The authors would also like to thank Kevin Scally, Chief Relationship Officer, for his editorial review.