We are fortunate to live in a generous community in which the work of nonprofits is seen as vital, and where people want to volunteer their time and money to support causes they care about. In 2017, total U.S. giving from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reached an estimated $410 billion, up 5.2 percent in current dollars (3 percent adjusted for inflation) from the estimate of $389.64 billion for 2016. This finding, coupled with Ramsay Slugg’s observation that donors’ primary motivation for charitable giving has little to do with taxes, should bode well for philanthropy, but several recent trends give cause for concern.
Research shows that the percentage of U.S. households making charitable donations has declined steadily in recent years, from about 67 percent in 2000 to 56.6 percent in 2015, the latest year for which data are available. Surprisingly, the biggest percentage point drop is for people ages 51-60, prime years for giving.
While no one knows for sure what’s causing the decline, we have a few clues. Generation X is smaller than the Baby Boom generation that preceded it, so there are fewer people entering their prime giving years. Estate planners have also observed that their clients’ philanthropic resources are being pinched by rising tuition costs for children and grandchildren and planning for long-term health care costs.
Locally, we are fortunate that our community’s rapid population growth has been matched by a commensurate increase in charitable giving. Recent history proves the point. Thanks to the generosity of our fundholders, the North Texas Community Foundation’s assets have increased by 179 percent over the past 10 years and now stand north of $330 million. Over the same period, the Community Foundation distributed $252 million in grants to support local nonprofits. And that’s not all: Our fellow North Texans have designated through their wills more than a quarter of a billion dollars (over and above existing assets) to the Community Foundation to support the community they love for generations to come.
While the heart may be willing, we also know that reducing your tax bill through charitable giving doesn’t hurt. The Community Foundation helps philanthropically minded people with tax planning strategies for charitable giving in a number of ways, including gifts of appreciated securities, IRA qualified charitable distributions, and the donation “bunching” that Ramsay Slugg references in his article.
The nonprofit sector is not icing on the cake, but rather a key ingredient in the mix. By lending your leadership to our community’s nonprofits and providing charitable support for their efforts, you are investing in the success of our region and ensuring that we continue to be better together. The North Texas Community Foundation is here to help.
Rose Bradshaw is president and CEO of the North Texas Community Foundation.