News & Press: Member Insights

Positive Trends in Philanthropy

Wednesday, July 15, 2020  

By Russ Hodge, CEO at The Hodge Group

I hope this update finds you safe and healthy as we move into the second half of 2020. As you likely know, Giving USA recently released its numbers which showed that in 2019, Americans donated almost $450 billion to charity. Furthermore, in comparison to 2018, individual giving increased by 2.8%. As good as this news is, most in our industry are deeply curious and even concerned about the outlook for 2020. I am optimistic about this year, and am reaching out to share with you some data The Hodge Group has been tracking, as well as some anecdotal information from our clients.

  1. Though the stock market has taken some hits and unemployment is still over ten percent, the conversations we’ve shared with our clients and their stakeholders, suggest optimism toward recovery. We've also found that the non-profit community has a significant opportunity to emerge as a leader in this recovery by optimizing their strategic partnerships and remaining relevant and flexible in the current environment. To date, The Hodge Group has facilitated or is in the process of facilitating a half-dozen major gifts this year. In fact, we recently secured a transformational gift through a Zoom solicitation.

  2. A Fidelity Charitable Survey from March showed that almost 80% of donors plan to continue or increase the size of their gifts even in the midst of the COVID-19 Crisis. This is in contrast to the AFP survey data that shows an overall 6% decrease in charitable giving during the first quarter of 2020. The AFP survey also showed a bright spot of a 6% increase in smaller gifts of $250 and under. We celebrate these because we all recognize how deeply sacrificial these are under our current economic circumstances.

  1. The desire to help is something many hope to carry beyond this life, and according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, FreeWill, a company that provides free online estate-planning tools, "saw a 600% increase in bequest commitments" in 2020 compared to 2019 for the last week of March. Bequest commitments in April 2020 were up 150% compared to 2019, and May commitments increased by 40% compared to 2019. This is consistent with everything The Hodge Group has observed about philanthropic tendencies during major life events. The entire second quarter of 2020, beginning with COVID-19 and ending with one of the most era-defining social justice movements of our time, has certainly set the stage for the desire to leave a legacy.

  2. A recent article in the New York Times makes clear that people are looking to help during these challenging times. Indeed, the article cites a study of thirty-two community foundations that found that donations from those organizations increased by 80% from March – May 2020 compared to that same time period in 2019.

I am privileged to do this work and look forward to observing profound recovery and change through the continued spirit of philanthropy.


Russ Hodge has over 35 years of fundraising experience. Throughout the years, Russ's hands-on management style and innovative fundraising techniques have helped The Hodge Group raise more than half a billion dollars for organizations of all sizes across the country. Russ is often sought out as a key speaker at fundraising conferences locally and nationwide, and is a member of both the Giving Institute and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). In 2019, Russ Hodge presented at Candid (Formerly Foundation Center and Guidestar) and CASE Center for Community College Advancement on "How Board Culture Leads to Hyper-PhilanthropyTM." Russ is the past recipient of AFP's Fundraiser of the Year for Central Ohio and is an AFP Master Trainer.


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