The latest Giving USA report just dropped and in case you missed it, here are the headlines:

  • $557B in overall giving representing a slight decrease (-2.1% after adjusting for inflation). While this decline is concerning, it is significantly less than the double-digit decrease we saw last year.
  • Individuals continue to take centerstage representing an even bigger piece of the overall giving pie than last year increasing from 64% in 2022 to 67% in 2023
  • Grant-making organizations saw the highest growth, receiving 15.4% of all philanthropic dollars, highlighting the increasing trend in donors choosing to support through donor-advised funds, supporting a local community foundation, or other indirect options.
  • For the first time in 50 years, Religion received less than a quarter (24%) of all giving. However, faith continues to be a powerful motivator of generosity as more faith-based organizations are represented in other categories.

So, what does this mean?

The latest Giving USA (and Fundraising Effectiveness Project) report continues to affirm what we in the fundraising community have long known – philanthropy, like so much in life, is about relationships.

In our current era of persistent global challenges—ranging from environmental crises to social justice issues and health emergencies—there’s a heightened awareness and urgency, leaving us feeling as if we’re in a state of ‘permacrises.’ While how individuals give to these needs may evolve, the fact that they give does not.

One of the most significant shifts we’re seeing is a notable increase in contributions directed toward Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs), which offer individuals significant influence over how and when their donations are deployed. Moreover, the recent explosion of crowdfunding platforms enables a broader audience to create or contribute to causes that resonate with them or a loved one.

These two trends highlight a growing desire for greater autonomy in one’s giving. As traditional structures of philanthropy adapt to meet these evolving dynamics, practicing relationship-centric fundraising emerges as not only crucial but increasingly pivotal in shaping the future of charitable giving.

Focusing on cultivating and stewarding long-term donor relationships is not only a matter of ethical responsibility but also a strategic imperative for sustainable growth and impact. Donors are increasingly looking for meaningful engagement and personalized interactions with organizations. They seek transparency, accountability, and opportunities for direct involvement in the causes they support. The rise of social media and digital platforms has empowered donors to connect with organizations and track their contributions’ impact in real time, elevating their expectations for engagement and communication.

By prioritizing relationship-centric fundraising, organizations improve donor loyalty and gather invaluable insights into donor preferences, enabling organizations to tailor outreach strategies, engage donors appropriately, and create more meaningful and impactful experiences. These donors, those personally invested in an organization’s mission are more likely to become long-term advocates and ambassadors, amplifying their impact through word-of-mouth referrals and peer-to-peer fundraising efforts.

While this practice of relationship-centric fundraising seems simple enough, it requires a committed, holistic approach that spans the entire donor lifecycle. Organizations must prioritize personalized engagement at every touchpoint from acquisition campaigns to prospect research and cultivation to stewardship and retention. This entails leveraging data analytics and donor segmentation strategies to tailor communications, offering unique opportunities for giving, involvement, and impact, and demonstrating tangible outcomes that resonate with donors’ known passions and priorities.

As the philanthropic landscape continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: relationships matter. In an age of unprecedented connectivity and choice, nonprofits must adapt to meet donors’ evolving needs and expectations. By embracing a relationship-centric approach to fundraising, organizations can forge deeper connections, drive greater impact, and ultimately, transform lives and communities for the better.

Take a relationship-centric approach to fundraising