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Our annual report provides critical insights on gift activity during 2020 and highlights ways in which donors can maximize the tax benefits of giving.

2021 Charitable Gift Report PDF


Our 2021 Annual Charitable Gift Report assesses the philanthropic landscape, levels of giving over the past five years and donor behavior to provide insights, context, and benchmarks. This report provides analytics and observations on charitable gift annuity and charitable remainder trust activity for more than 100 nonprofit organizations during calendar year 2020.



Philanthropy was greatly impacted by the far-reaching events of 2020. Individuals sought opportunities to help address societal and community needs while nonprofits grappled with meeting greater demand for services and declining revenues due to COVID-related lockdowns. Despite these challenges, the philanthropic community demonstrated tremendous resourcefulness and generosity. Highlighted below are some of the key learnings through our 2021 Annual Charitable Gift Report.



1. Donors may be foregoing significant tax benefits by funding five or six figure gift annuities with cash.


Just 16% of the charitable gift annuities established in the study were funded with non-cash assets. Donors funding gift annuities with cash rather than appreciated securities may be foregoing the advantages of the ‘triple tax benefit’: savings on federal capital gains taxes, deferral of certain capital gains and the potential reduction of estate taxes.


2. Charitable trusts remain a powerful but underutilized tool to help donors fulfill broader philanthropic goals.


Charitable trust activity continues to decline, despite the creative ways that trusts can help donors meet their charitable, tax and income goals. For example, business owners going through a liquidity event can use CRTs to strike the ideal balance between charitable intent, desire for ascertainable cash flow as well as interest in deferring capital gains on the sale of an asset.


3. Donor advised funds (DAFs) continue to be an important part of the philanthropic landscape.


During times of economic uncertainty when capacity for charitable giving may be limited, donors with DAFs are well positioned to provide critical funding to nonprofits when it’s needed the most. This was illustrated during 2020, when grants through the BNY Mellon Charitable Gift Fund increased by 86% over the prior year. In addition to offering a simple and flexible option for charitable giving, DAFs are also now being used in creative estate and tax planning strategies to promote legacy, family and next generation giving.


4. Charitable organizations need to be proactive in assessing and managing underwater gift annuities.


Over half of the charitable organizations issuing gift annuities in this study had at least one “underwater gift”. Effective identification and management of current underwater gifts, as well as gifts that are projected to go underwater, is vital for charities to manage the financial risks inherent in issuing gift annuities, to protect their reputations as responsible stewards, and to cultivate future gifts from their donors.




To read more, please download the 2021 Charitable Gift Report.

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