Giving USA Results a Reminder To Focus on Legacy, Non-Cash Gifts

Posted by askirvin on Jul 20, 2023 12:27:38 PM

By Lisa M. Chmiola, CFRE, CSPG

The annual Giving USA report was released a few weeks ago, and there’s been much buzz about 2022 as a bad year for fundraising. It’s hard to ignore the numbers: individual giving is down to 64% of all gifts, and those gifts decreased 13.4% in 2022 from 2021 when adjusted for inflation. (Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy, “4 Takeaways from Giving USA and More.”)

What is not being discussed as much: the importance of focusing on the full range of philanthropy, which includes strategies to cultivate, solicit, and steward legacy gifts to build long-term sustainability. Bequests are still a significant piece of the giving pie, as illustrated by the last six years of Giving USA data:


Bequest %

Bequest $




















(Source: Giving USA, "Giving USA Limited Data Tableau Visualization," and "Where did the generosity come from?")

These realized gifts are the product of work by fundraisers over many years or decades. However, planned gift strategies can be ignored, especially in small or understaffed organizations. It’s certainly not a replacement for current giving but rather an important supplement, especially in building long-term sustainability for an organization. When directed to an endowment, for example, a bequest continues to benefit the nonprofit and the people it serves long past the original intent and realized gift. Talk about return on investment!

What is your organization doing to invite donors to consider their legacy through bequests and other estate gifts? What more can you be doing to invite donors to consider this opportunity?

In addition to the long-game of legacy gifts, fundraisers should also be focusing on strategies to secure current gifts from non-cash assets. Even when markets are down, donors often acquired appreciated assets such as securities and real estate at a low cost basis. Gifting part or all of the asset prior to a sale could result in tax benefits for the donor and dollars into your organization. 

Feel non-cash gifts are too overwhelming? Focus on IRA rollover gifts. Formally known as Qualified Charitable Distributions, these gifts which can be made by donors age 70 ½ or older from a traditional IRA directly to a qualified charitable organization. Currently, a maximum of $100,000 is allowed to be transferred each year, and that maximum will be indexed for inflation starting in 2024. As an estimated 90% of Americans take the standard deduction on their taxes (Source: Forbes), QCDs allow donors to make gifts that may reduce their taxable income that can also offset Required Minimum Distributions. 

So when you are re-evaulating your strategy of how to deepen relationships with your individual donors, be sure you are considering how to add or amplify your legacy and non-cash asset giving strategies. 

Not sure where to start? CGP’s resource library offers a wealth of webinar recordings and other educational resources to help you. 

And remember, always encourage your donors to consult their professional advisors to determine how giving strategies may impact them.

Topics: Advocacy & Legislation Updates, Research, News