As the year’s end approaches, thoughts of preparing 2019 tax returns come to mind, and itemizing charitable donations. Giving USA finds charitable donations by individuals dropped last year by 1.1%, while giving by corporations and foundations rose. According to United Way, the nation’s top receiver of charitable donations, in the past ten years they’ve experienced a decline of 27.9%.
We don’t know what 2019 will hold, but Larry Vaclavik, Principal with Houston fundraising consultancy Dini Spheris, expects it to be an increase once the numbers come out next year. He says the U.S. has seen a 40 year upward climb that experienced a minor hiccup last year, which he calls flat, and predicts a recovery in 2019. Vaclavik says there has been an adjustment in how and where donations are going, citing a rise donor advised funds, putting more money into community foundations that are less visible, and generational changes as the Greatest Generation and Boomers give way to Millennials and the sociological changes that brings. Fewer people are active in organized religions and that appears to be having an impact. “The decline in mainstream religious affiliations translates in some cases to a diminished interest in charitable giving,” Vaclavik says. He says giving has been a part of our national character since our inception, long before there were income taxes. We’re now seeing decreases to giving in education nationally but increases in international giving and conservation, reflecting values of younger generations. The federal tax code, changed in 2018 to encourage fewer itemized deductions, may be influencing people’s choices in donations.