Survey: Only 44% of Americans Who Donated to Charity in the Past 12 Months Include a Line Item for Charitable Donations in Their Annual Budget

charityImage by Heather Paque

MALVERN, PA Americans who actively budget their charitable giving are much more likely to have given more, on average, in the past 12 months than those who do not budget at all ($2,453 vs. $355). According to the online survey of over 2,000 US adults conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, a leading nonprofit that administers donor-advised funds (DAFs), only 44% of Americans who donated to charity in the past 12 months include monetary charitable donations in their annual budgets. The findings indicate that lack of budgeting for charitable giving is correlated to less charitable giving by individuals over the course of the year compared to those who do budget for charity.

Among those who donated to charity in the past 12 months, 38% of Americans who include charitable donations in their annual budget shared they increased the amount compared to the previous 12-month period. Of those who budget but do not include charitable donations, only 22% said giving increased. For Americans who give without any annual budget, only 19% said giving increased in the past 12 months compared to the previous 12-month period.

“The charitable giving we’ve seen over the past year has been inspiring in the face of devastating circumstances. This survey data underscores that planning and budgeting can help individuals make the biggest charitable impact,” says Rebecca Moffett, President of Vanguard Charitable. “Philanthropists give for a variety of very personal and important reasons, and at Vanguard Charitable we encourage every donor to build on their motivations by actively planning their impact through the entire year. This mindset shift will turn short-term giving into long-term, sustained impact for nonprofits desperate for consistent support.”

Giving Motivations

While donors are united in their mission to make an impact, their motivations for giving vary. Donors who gave any amount over the past 12 months, were most commonly inspired to give as a result of personal experience or current events.

–  27% were inspired by a personal experience to donate/make a larger donation
–  24% were inspired by current events or news stories (COVID-19, natural disasters)
–  22% were following a set charitable budget they stick to every year
–  20% were inspired to make a new donation to a new/different charity
–  16% volunteer for the organization  
–  15% gave because the charity made an appeal to give more  
–  14% were compelled by friend or family member to donate 
–  11% were compelled by the tax benefit
–  14% other

Among Americans who gave $250 or more in the last year, the top motivator for their donations was by the urge to stick with their charitable giving budget (33%).

Other key survey findings:

  • An engaged public: On the heels of a record granting year in 2020, Americans remain engaged and active in philanthropy throughout 2021, with nearly three in four Americans (73%) giving money to charities in the past 12 months.
    Younger Americans and those approaching retirement age are more likely to have a charitable donation budget: Among recent donors, those ages 18-44 and 55-64 are more likely than those ages 45-54 and 65+ to include monetary charitable donations in their annual budget (51% and 47% vs. 33% and 34%). 
  • 1 in 6 Americans gave a substantial donation: 16% of donors gave more than $1,000 in the past 12 months.

As the world slowly begins to enter the recovery stage of the pandemic and deals with continued serious social, economic, and environmental problems, sustained short-and long-term philanthropic giving will remain a critical component to rebuilding communities. In an effort to support donors in their missions, Vanguard Charitable launched the Nonprofit Aid Visualizer™ (NAVi) to better connect donors with nonprofits that serve areas of great need or provide relief and services to the causes they care about most.

For more information about Vanguard Charitable or giving through donor-advised funds, please visit

Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable between September 16-20, 2021, among 2,075 US adults ages 18+, among whom 1,490 donated to charity in the past 12 months. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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This article is intended for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only and should not be construed as advice, guidance or counsel. It is provided without warranty of any kind.