Giving Tuesday has another record year despite tax law change

Despite ongoing concerns that federal tax law changes would reduce charitable contributions this year, Giving Tuesday again brought in a record amount of donations.

The 7-year-old worldwide online philanthropy movement, which falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year, generated more than $380 million in donations this year, which is more than double the $180 million raised just two years ago. Last year, about $300 million was raised.

The gifts this year came from more than 3.6 million individuals, making the mean gift size around $100.

In Indianapolis, organizations of all sizes participated—Butler University received 628 gifts and raised more than $250,000; Indy Reads more than doubled its goal and raised $6,278; LifeSmart Youth raised more than $2,300.

“The impact those dollars can have through those nonprofits is wonderful,” said Bill Stanczykiewicz, director of the Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “People are seeing philanthropy as an important activity.”

Not-for-profit leaders across the country and in Indianapolis have been worried that the tax reform bill that Congress approved late last year would cause a decrease in the number of taxpayers claiming the charitable deduction and therefore reduce giving overall.

Stanczykiewicz said Giving Tuesday results are a good sign that giving may not decrease this year. But one day is too short of a time period to be certain, he said.

“The answer is we still don’t know,” Stanczykiewicz said. “All of us can hope that that is a signal that charitable giving… is still strong, is still robust, is still growing.”

But the overall impact on overall giving won’t be known until the year is over—most donations are made within the last two months of the year.

One thing that may continue to boost Giving Tuesday every year though are the evolving tools on social media platforms, which continue to make social media a popular avenue for not-for-profits.

“There is no doubt that the number of dollars being raised through social media is increasing from one year to the next,” Stanczykiewicz said.

But there are some disadvantages. For example, when an individual creates a fundraiser for an organization on Facebook and invites friends to donate directly through that page, the not-for-profit receiving the donations can’t see who’s donating. It only sees who created the fundraiser.

That means the organization loses the ability to follow up with the donor.

“That’s less valuable then to the nonprofit,” said Bryan Orander, president of Charitable Advisors. “Because they can’t thank and acknowledge the same way.”

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