Dr. Una Olisi | Assoc. Dean of Research

In this insightful discussion, Dr. Una Osili, Associate Dean at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, unpacks the findings of the Giving USA report. Despite economic headwinds, American generosity stands firm, with corporate and foundation giving witnessing an uptick. However, individual giving, traditionally the backbone of American philanthropy, is seeing a reduced share. Dr. Osili underscores the need for nonprofits to adapt their engagement strategies to meet donors where they are, given the economic shifts and increasing donor diversity. She also emphasizes the power of authentic storytelling in fostering donor relationships. This conversation offers valuable insights for nonprofits seeking to navigate the evolving philanthropic landscape.

visit them here: givingusa.org


What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What are the key findings of the Giving USA report?
  2. How has the pandemic affected philanthropic trends in the US?
  3. What strategies can nonprofits adopt to engage donors effectively?
  4. How important is storytelling in building relationships with donors?
  5. What future trends can we anticipate in philanthropy?

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(00:00) were telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them cares is the intersection of the non-profit Community making Kansas City a better place to live work and play this KC care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation www.kauffman.

(00:21) org I’m Ruth Baum Bigus. it’s that season again when the giving USA report comes out providing National philanthropic Trends the giving USA annual report is the longest running and most comprehensive look at philanthropy and provides an in-depth analysis rather of charitable giving where it comes from how funds are used and more insights from the report are a great tool for those of us in the world of non-profit fundraising and their programming Partners well for the last several years KC cares has highlighted the significant report that’s produced by

(00:56) the team at the Lilly Family School of philanthropy at Indiana University we are delighted to welcome a new guest to chat about the report and what it means it’s Dr Una Olisi, the associate dean of research and international programs and the euphrymanson share of economics and philanthropy at the Lilly school it has been her job to oversee this massive project and welcome we’re so happy to have you with us well hello everyone I’m thrilled to be here thanks for hosting me it’s really a pleasure

(01:30) well I have to tell our audience we are honored my gosh you have quite the resume a scientist and economics person everything maybe a good base would be to start how did you get into this kind of world to begin with it’s a great question I grew up with parents who are very deeply involved in generosity and family and taught us very early how to get involved how to give back how to serve others and it was no surprise that in college I actually started working in a neighborhood right close to where I went to college in

(02:10) Boston tutoring kids raising money for the non-profit and spending summers in Boston so that got me interested in the more formal side of the philanthropic sector fast forward the tape when I started my research as an economic student and a doctoral student I picked a dissertation topic that was very closely aligned to these issues around how people give and make decisions about their philanthropy how much they save but how much they give to others and I was very fortunate to start my career here at Indiana University and we have

(02:45) here the world’s first school on philanthropy it’s quite an exciting place if you’re interested in generosity what drives people to give but also how to serve and how to lead and how to collaborate with others so this is really a wonderful place and if you haven’t visited the lily family school either virtually in person or on the web please feel free to do so we have academic programs we have students here we have online programs but we also have lots of research so the data is there and it’s available so I feel like I was

(03:19) very blessed to merge my academic interests with my own passions and get to do that every day here at the Lilly Family School well how lucky for the school to have you and it’s so interesting how long has the school been in existence now so the school was formally inaugurated in 2013 it became the school but before that it was the center on philanthropy at Indiana University and also the world’s first academic center that started in 1985 and many people may know we have the fundraising school and that’s quite

(03:55) unique because you can take classes non-degree certificate programs Executive Education programs on all sorts of topics from fundraising to leadership to board engagement um all topics are covered ethics and fundraising so I I do encourage all of your listeners to if you don’t know much about this school please feel free to reach out to us we’re always happy to talk to our non-profit colleagues we’ll give you that those two seconds to do a commercial where is the best place for folks to go find out information

(04:29) about all the things that you do at the Lilly school well visit the school’s website I think that’s really the best place to do that and I will share that website at the end maybe the link we can include that terrific all right well let’s get back to what we introduced everybody to and that’s the annual giving USA report before we do the big reveal of numbers and trends I wanted our audience to understand what goes into putting together a report like this give us that Peak behind the curtain how this all

(05:04) comes together well I’m excited to do that because this year more than ever I have felt the enormous responsibility that we have here to provide these numbers giving USA is the longest running report in the charitable sector it dates back to 1985 and if you look behind my desk I have many uh many of those initial editions right here on my shelf but I wanted to even better understand this report so for this year’s report I went to our library we have a philanthropic studies library and looked at all the early editions from

(05:38) the 50s 60s and even 70s back then philanthropy was not as complex and sophisticated as it is today we have more than 1.3 million non-profits maybe 1.8 million non-profits in the US and we cover all of the giving that goes to those charitable organizations in addition America has changed since the 50s we have many of course more people it’s a more diverse economy and we also have many more tools on vehicles associated with giving which means tracking giving is not so simple as tracking down those large organizations

(06:17) there are smaller organizations they’re medium-sized organizations of all different types so we track the giving from the donor side so who gives individuals foundations corporations but also charitable because so all of that has to be understood and estimated and we use for some of those estimates we use very sophisticated models reflecting just how complex philanthropy is and then turning to the other side where does all the giving go and that has also changed since the 50s because we have new sub-sectors that

(06:52) have emerged environment giving to environmental causes has grown in the 50s and 60s that was a timing tiny tiny and wasn’t even tracked as a standalone sub-sector similarly giving to International causes something we take for granted with the war in Ukraine and disasters and crises around the world that also didn’t exist in the 50s and 60s so a lot has has happened since then and we have to do the uh I’d say the challenging but exciting work of keeping track of all those changes but at the same time what has stayed consistent and

(07:28) that’s what the inspiring message for today’s conversation is the generosity of Americans is one thing that has stayed the same we’ve seen that during good times we’ve also seen that during very challenging times how even during the past crises how Americans really stepped up to help their neighbors their their friends but even strangers that needed assistance and that’s been the Common Thread through our tracking of giving USA what really binds all this together is the generosity the expressions of caring for others that we

(08:02) see and then we get the fun but challenging tasks of keeping track of the numbers so it’s not enough to just say we know that giving went to this organization we have to know how much and ultimately how that giving is changing and it is changing so how many people touch the things that go into this report and you know I I just imagine somebody churning now nobody uses adding machines that’s really dated but sitting at computers with formulas and everything else how many folks and for how long this is a year-round project I’m glad

(08:41) you asked that question most people don’t don’t recognize that from the day giving USA launches to the next year we start working on it it’s almost right away so it’s a year-round project we have a research team of about 10 to 12 full-time staff that work on the report but we also have a team of graduate students that are involved with the report in one form or another and a team of volunteers from the giving USC Foundation remember this is a collaboration between the lily family school and our colleague yes giving

(09:16) Institute and so many other colleagues volunteer to read chapters to provide comments and so it is truly a year-round project but your kind of image is correct we have um very dedicated staff members but a lead statistician who works on this project John Bergdahl and then the leader on the writing side and the Productions side is my colleague Dr Anna Pruitt who works on all things related to the giving USA chapters and numbers so when we say it is a true collaboration it really is and we feel this tremendous of course responsibility

(09:55) to tell the story of American philanthropy because the report has been published continuously since the 50s so through all the upheavals that we’ve had and even more recently through the covet crisis where we had to um like many other non-profits around the country truly wrap our mind around how giving was changing and what that meant for American non-profits and households all over the country and in Kansas City as well there must be a big cheer though that goes up once that’s sent to the printer or the final thing I would imagine

(10:29) there’s a big woohoo it’s a lot of work absolutely and in fact the celebration usually starts um I’d say once we announce the results so on June 20th is the launch dates as you already know and throughout that period we are interfacing with non-profits with the media with many others but the launch date signals the essentially the completion of the project so that’s the time when all of us can actually just get excited and celebrate the contribution that all of us make to this work I wanted to go back and ask one more

(11:05) little technical question and then we’ll get into the big reveal of what’s happening and where we’re going you had said there’s about 1.8 million non-profits give or take I know in the Kansas City area alone we have about 8 000 non-profits kind of what role do the non-profits play in that where do you get these numbers from is it from the taxes is it from websites how do you find it you are asking some excellent questions and you are exactly right all non-profits are required to file a form 990 and that’s

(11:39) true for most organizations there are some small organizations that Grassroots may not file non-filers those exist but the majority are required to file a form 990 so we have access to all that data on the nonprofit side on the donor side it’s more complex because as you know although Americans all submit their taxes generally speaking of all income levels with tax reform we have only a small slice of that pie because only about 10 percent of Americans now itemize on their taxes which means for 90 we have to rely on other data sources

(12:16) fortunately for those of you who are data people in the audience since we have a tremendous resource here at the lily family school called the philanthropy panel study it tracks the same Americans over time about 10 000 families and that gives us what we call the non-itemizer estimate for charitable giving but on the foundation side on the corporate side and charitable because we also have some government data so a simple answer to your wonderful and thoughtful question is we have both government tax-based data sources for

(12:49) giving USA but we also lean on other data sources to fill in the gaps and that’s especially important for studying household giving where we know that not all households actually itemize their charitable contributions but many are still giving even when they don’t itemize because they take the standard deduction so this is uh inside baseball for those of you necessarily data people but for those who are there is a lot of complexity to charitable giving as I try to remind people this is not uh what it

(13:23) looked like in the 50s and 60s but it’s also fashionable yes it’s exciting to see how much the sector has grown and how complex but also very sophisticated and it also requires all of us to keep learning and keep growing because if the field is dynamic it’s not static at all okay so the big reveal how much and this is reporting for 2022 correct correct I’m glad you noticed that so the big reveal is that in 2022 giving reached a new level of 499 billion dollars that’s a big deal because this is uh really the first time

(14:07) uh during the pandemic that we saw giving cross the half a trillion dollar Mark so there’s a lot to celebrate in this year’s report but there’s also a lot to to be concerned about um what we also saw is that the economic environment in 2022 led to a decline in giving and this is after having several consecutive years of growth where giving actually fell so while we had this new record in terms of crossing the half a trillion dollar Mark when we look at what has happened during the pandemic it does look like giving

(14:43) has declined slightly and in that is mostly due to the effect of the economy inflation many of you know that we have a 40-year record Being set in terms of inflationary pressures as well as the stock market declining at the year end so when you put all these economic factors together giving actually overall giving fell however during the pandemic we set new records in terms of generosity so there’s both good news there to celebrate but also some challenges ahead as we navigate a lot of volatility and uncertainty not just here

(15:21) in the U.S in terms of our economy but in the global context so I want to make sure I understand it we raised more money than ever but giving in terms of across the board was down yes we did not keep it’s one way to think about it is we did not replace with inflation is a very simple way to put it I think most people know that uh our uh inflationary pressures have meant that when we go to the grocery store we’ve seen higher prices across the board so the economist to me would just say uh giving did not keep Pace with

(15:59) inflation and so that’s why we’re seeing uh that uh decline for 2022 however during those pandemic years we did set new records in terms of generosity so the numbers in 2022 have to be interpreted with all of that context that we had some record growth taking place during the pandemic and also that inflation and the stock market did have um an impact on the results for 2022 and for those who’ve been following the economy and listening to those uh caters I’m paying attention to all of those um

(16:37) both the good news and the bad news I think these numbers will resonate they won’t be that surprising okay so we know we have more money but less giving who are the winners where did we see okay we stayed the course or we even got a bump up then we’ll talk about the folks that weren’t so lucky okay so in general what we see is when we look at the cumulative picture and that’s important between 20 uh 2020 and 2022 in general total giving did go up but as as I mentioned when we adjust for inflation it didn’t keep Pace however uh

(17:15) where we actually saw the brightest spots are around corporate giving corporate giving um many of you know this corporations across the board did see overall increase in corporate profits on Aggregates of course not all companies are going to have this result but generally speaking we saw many companies step up in their generosity during the pandemic and even when we adjust for inflation this is looking over that two-year period 2020 to 2022.

(17:46) yes how did we do how did we uh how does the uh giving environment reflect all of the changes that we’ve seen so corporations really stand out as a White Spot because even after we adjust for inflation they’re still coming out ahead much of this is due to the increase in corporate pre-tax profits and the fact that many corporations leaned in to helping others during the community not just um health related but other types of racial and social justice giving and many other causes foundations are also a very bright spot in this year’s report even

(18:23) after we adjust for inflation looking over that two-year period Foundation giving also is still in the positive and the big uh reveal there is also that many foundations saw their um endowments increased right yes with the stock market growth and many of them increased their giving during the pandemic um relaxing payout rates in order to meet needs we saw not just large foundations but also small Family Foundation step up so for the non-profits and fundraisers who are paying attention we’ve emphasized that

(19:00) this is the time to really understand that full map of giving individual giving is still the Lion’s Share but foundations and corporations are an important part of the of the pie of the puzzle to figure out Okay so we’ve heard the bright spots who didn’t do so well as we look forward what what sectors really you know took a dip not even stay flat okay so that’s a good time to kind of turn our attention to changes in giving by destination this is where the giving goes and during the pandemic we know

(19:36) that a lot of non-profits found uh some success actually they saw that donors were giving more in response to the pandemic so 2022 if we look at those results once again over that two-year period the areas that seem to come out ahead in general when we look at that two-year period we’re really giving to International causes is one and here I will highlight that the warn Ukraine is a big factor there because many Americans have given to support the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and keep in mind that is not just a one-year

(20:15) effort it has sort of unfortunately continued but we’ve also seen donors persist in their giving be consistent in their giving and similarly International Organization innovate in other words find new ways to motivate and Inspire donors including subscription-based giving Which has found some resonance in that sector similarly when we look over that two-year period uh giving to foundations in other words people giving to their own foundations has also grown during this time responding to the stock market

(20:50) and many of the other economic factors throughout the pandemic I will also stress that um giving to Human Services increased during the pandemic years and while we’ve seen some tapering off of that with the abatement and also not being front and center in the news Human Services as kind of a you know relatively maintained during this period so I will just mention that in general one other area that we’ve seen um some persistence over time in terms of the last few years is giving to religion where religious congregations

(21:32) as you know did have a harder time during the pandemic simply because people weren’t attending services but as um Services have resumed in-person events have resumed we’ve seen as some return of giving to religious congregation so the growth rate over the two-year period which is kind of the way of looking at who’s lost ground who’s gained ground right see it it’s a at least um not not such a pessimistic picture when we look at religious congregations what had what surprised you as you looked at this year you know this

(22:12) 2022 I guess is the tail end of quote-unquote pandemic before now we get post pandemic anything that jumped out to you and your team of wow that’s a surprise yes um here the biggest finding I think that has we’ve spent a lot of time on is the pie chart in the past individual giving has always been the largest slice and it still is however we’ve seen it shrink as a share of overall giving uh when giving USA started in the 50s 60s even the 70s individual giving was over 80 percent of all giving today that’s down to more

(22:57) like 64 percent um so what has changed is that foundations are now a bigger slice of the pie in fact 20 of all giving comes from foundations now I want to put this in context because as I mentioned individual giving is still the Lion’s Share of American philanthropy and if we were to add individuals half of family foundations and charitable because we still have that individual’s control something like 88 of all giving however it’s important for non-profits to understand that how individuals give is

(23:36) changing they have many more options many more vehicles to make those contributions and for the non-profit sector it’s important to understand that changing landscape and also the role that foundations play whether those are foundations that are managed by professional staff or foundations that are organized by families which means it’s important to build relationships with those two types and understand those differences as well and I believe last year was the first year that you had included was a Donor

(24:11) advised funds yes so this year we have a standalone chapter again on Donor advised funds and that is a place where we’re seeing more America there’s been a tremendous amount of growth in doing advice funds more Americans are using them we’re also seeing shifts on the institutional side where it used to be that only wealthy households could open up dafts well today we have no minimum dapps at banks at other types of Institutions that allow the donor to set those up and use them to fund their charitable interests causes and

(24:48) organizations once again I think the shift means that uh non-profits have to engage donors understanding that they can give from many different sources we’ve got it’s a huge package of stuff I would like for you to take kind of your crystal ball now knowing all this past knowing what came in this year what does this say to those of us toiling in the field of non-profits what do we take away and try to put into our friend and fundraising efforts yes there’s so much to digest in this year’s report I think the biggest

(25:29) takeaway is to understand that generosity is a core value for many Americans and that we’ve seen in tough times in uh good times but also in very difficult times Americans give as we navigate what happens in a world that’s so different from the one we knew even before covid I think it’s the takeaway here is that nonprofits are also going to have to adapt their methods their tools of Engagement to meet donors where they are and embedded in this report is the understanding that we’re dealing with significant shifts in the economy

(26:06) certainly but also in the American uh in American communities where we have a much more diverse donor Base by age by Race by ethnicity but also uh the causes that donors care about and so one takeaway from me as we look ahead 2023 I’m even looking ahead to 2024 we’re hearing a lot more about the risk of a downturn recession recessionary risks but also even with the inflation continues to be high even with the tapering off so for fundraisers and non-profits I think the main thing is while you can’t control the macro

(26:43) economy you are not the one setting policy around interest rates are inflationary uh policies however what you can control is your relationships with your donors yes and more importantly than ever technology is playing such an important role in how donors learn about non-profits how they engage with causes and how they get involved and during the last few months we released a report of the lily family school called what Americans think about philanthropy and non-profits the surprise there is that most households

(27:18) don’t know very much about non-profits and they don’t know very much about how they work so what that tells me me is in this era of information and so much available at our fingertips we’re going to have to work really hard to tell our story storytelling is very important this is coming from someone who’s a data person data is part of that data is part of telling the story but authentic communication and engagement is going to be really key with donors having of course more economic concerns

(27:50) to think about but also wanting those opportunities to engage with their Community we know that um during covet we saw an uptick in pro-social behavior and some of that is really still very much evident in our communities where people of all different backgrounds are looking for ways to get involved so the challenge and opportunity for non-profits in Kansas City and throughout the country is to tell their story to get their message out and also to find ways to authentic quickly build relationships with donors of all

(28:27) different backgrounds because the Common Thread what really unites us As Americans is this commitment to generosity and and this giving us a report emphasizes that point all right this is your couple of seconds to plug where we can go what website to learn more about the Lily School okay well first of all let me just say if you want to learn more about the Lilly Family School uh you can go to www.

(28:59) iupui dots lfsop.edu that’s certainly one place to go um the other place to go is the givingusa.org website because that giving USC Foundation is our partner in all these things and uh specifically if you’re interested in research we have a standalone website called generosityforlife.org that has all of the data about generosity everything you could possibly want to know at your fingertips so feel free to search that website as well we’re excited to share all of this information as you can see Dr osely thank you so much this has been

(29:36) a great conversation I know our audience has learned a whole lot about how this comes together and how they can use it so thank you for joining us it was my pleasure and honor and thank you and please uh feel free to reach out with any other questions you have thank you for joining us for KC cares Kansas City’s non-profit voice this KC care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation www.kauffman.org.

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