Here's What you missed!Giving USA Logo

On Thursday, June 17, 2021, we hosted our annual Giving USA panel conversation, however, once again, it was held virtually. Melissa Berliner from Campbell & Company moderated the panel that included Jennifer Mehr, director of advancement at Riverwest Food Pantry, Chuck Rozewicz, chief development officer at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Rebecca Stoner, director of development operations at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. (Maxine Webb, development director at ACLU of Wisconsin was scheduled to participate but was unable to join due to illness. She has agreed to join us for a future session to share her experience and expertise.)

Melissa began with an overview of 2020 giving trends that included the following highlights:

  • Charitable giving reached a record high of $471 billion in 2020, according to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Overall, giving increased by an estimated 5.1% over 2019.
  • The report reflects a unique and complex year in giving, as economic indicators were broadly mixed and donors were motivated by multiple crisis events such as the pandemic and the racial unrest created by the murder of George Floyd.
  • At a 16.26%, the S&P 500 had an incredible finish at the end of 2020. Disposable personal income increased $111.6 billion, 0.6%. However, unemployment also rose to record highs in 2020. The result of these mixed economic factors contributed to disparate results, where some nonprofit organizations and causes saw their giving spike while others experienced significant downturns in their fundraising results.
  • Giving rose in three of four sources between 2019 and 2020. Giving by individuals totaled approximately $324.10 billion, which was a 2.2% rise, or a 1% increase when acknowledging inflation. While this is an impressive result for a recessionary year, the Chronicle reports that if back out Mackenzie Scott giving, this is actually a decrease in giving by just under 1%.
  • There was a 17% increase from foundation giving: $88.55 billion, and it was a 15.6% increase adjusted for inflation.
  • Giving by bequests totaled about $41.91 billion, growing 10.3%, which was an inflation-adjusted increase of 9.0%.
  • Giving from corporations had an estimated decline of 6.1% in 2020, with a total of $16.88 billion. This meant an inflation-adjusted decline of 7.3%. But we need to look more deeply here – corporate giving is usually connected to pre-tax profits. Last year, pre-tax profits were down in corporate America as a whole. But, giving was about .8% of pre-tax profits, which is pretty flat compared to 2019 (.9%). In other words, corps gave away the same %age of their “bounty.”
  • In subsector donations, public-society benefit organizations saw a 15.7 % increase from 2019 to 2020. At $48.00 billion, these organizations experienced a 14.3 % inflation-adjusted growth in giving.
  • Environmental organizations, as well as animal support organizations, had an increased giving of 11.6 % over the past two years (10.3 % with inflation adjustment). This amount has reached $16.14 billion.
  • Giving to the arts, culture, and humanities faced a difficult year because of pandemic closings. There is an estimated decline of 7.5 %, 8.6 % considering inflation: $19.47 billion.

Jennifer confirmed trends that mirrored the GUSA findings, including an impressive new 1,400 donors (primarily small gifts from individuals) which allowed them to meet the need. She shared that Riverwest Food Pantry normally serve 13,000 annually but served nearly 20,000 in 2020. She says, “The need was great but the response to support us was even greater.” Jennifer shared a resource that worked well to engage in-kind donations,, which helped resource items, in addition to funds.

Chuck shared that Milwaukee Repertory Theater experienced an increase of 29% in their annual campaign, most notably through individual giving with a slight decrease in corporate giving. Outreach was not limited to fundraising development staff and board of trustees but also included artists who reached out to donors directly – which proved to be successful.

Rebecca, however, found that corporate giving to Boys & Girls Clubs Greater Milwaukee increased while individual giving decreased. Rebecca believes that the same strategies worked well in 2020 as have previously yielded great results: building authentic relationships, telling great stories, bringing people together in meaningful ways, and staying focused on the mission.

All of the panelists expressed concerns with donor retention and are currently assessing strategies to achieve positive results.

The conversation also included a focus on equity and inclusion. Rebecca reminded us that the events of the last year inspired a “movement, not a moment.” Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is currently evaluating how they incorporate elements of community-centric fundraising practices into their work. Learn more,, and watch for more information in future communications from AFP Southeastern Wisconsin regarding this model.