Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Atlas of Giving and how was it created?

The Atlas of Giving is the only comprehensive monthly estimate of charitable giving by sector, source, and state in the US. The Atlas of Giving provides the only forecast of giving in the U.S.

The Atlas of Giving is built upon the fact that charitable giving is directly tied to specific economic, demographic, and event factors. A team of 25 PhD level mathematicians; analysts and statisticians evaluated dozens of possible variables and their interactions with charitable giving outcomes over four decades. The Atlas of Giving has determined exactly what specific factors correlate with charitable giving in the US. The research team used the relevant identified factors to create 65 econometric algorithms for charitable giving by 9 sectors (religion, education, environment, etc), 4 sources (individuals, foundations, corporations, and bequests), and for 50 states and Washington DC. Each of the algorithms correlates to 42 years of published giving history with a coefficient of correlation of 91% to 99.8%.

Well-established macroeconomic measurements (retail sales, manufacturing inventories, etc.) use the same type of econometric formulas (algorithms) to establish a benchmark. The benchmark is then used to measure changes, establish trends, and create forecasts. Consistency and fidelity of the benchmark are vital. The Atlas of Giving uses this proven methodology for measuring and forecasting giving.

The Atlas is able to use its algorithms to measure total US giving as it occurs monthly and provide an updated monthly forecast. Unlike any other charitable giving index or estimate, the Atlas also monitors current events (political changes, disasters, tax policy changes, important economic factors like unemployment, the stock market, consumer confidence, etc) and provides analysis of their impact on current and future giving.

Atlas of Giving technology has also been used to develop specific predictive models for individual nonprofits and groups of associated nonprofits. These models have proven to be incredibly accurate.

What benefits does the Atlas of Giving provide?

  • Raise more money by timing promotions based on a reliable forecast
  • Create realistic budgets based on a forecast for future giving
  • Adjust fundraising activities and spending based on conditions and forecast
  • Benchmark fundraising results in real time by sector, source, and state
  • Evaluate staff productivity based on a high fidelity benchmark
  • Gain a competitive edge by planning fundraising during the best times for success
  • Monitor the effects of events, policy changes, and staff changes on fundraising results

How is the Atlas of Giving different from other reports and indices?

  • The Atlas of Giving is the only comprehensive monthly estimate of charitable giving by sector, source, and state in the US. The Atlas of Giving provides the only reliable forecast of giving in the U.S.
  • Other resources are singularly focused on looking back in time. The Atlas of Giving is forward-focused, concentrating on the velocity and trajectory of giving.
  • Other resources are timed so poorly that they offer no utility. They are released annually and released months after the giving year that they are estimating. Others are not representative of the entire charitable giving economy, as they don’t include large segments of giving like churches and colleges. They also don’t adequately sample very large and very small nonprofits.
  • The Atlas of Giving analyzes the effect of current events on charitable giving. Others analyze only historical events an their impact on last year’s giving.

Who is the Atlas of Giving useful for?

  • Journalists who report on philanthropy, fundraising, and business
  • Nonprofit fundraising practitioners
  • Churches
  • Nonprofit board members
  • Nonprofit managers and budget preparers
  • Financial Analysts

Can the Atlas be customized for my organization, church, or association of nonprofits?

Absolutely. There are two ways to get some amount of customization:

  1. Express Custom provides a good, inexpensive, and fast forecast for an organization’s fiscal year. Simply answer 6 easy questions about your giving and instantly get a forecast.
  2. Ultimate Planning Tool is a very sophisticated forecast tailored to a specific organization. We use the same technology that was used to create Atlas algorithms to create algorithms that are entirely based on your organization. Using your past giving history, we will identify what demographic, economic, and event factors correlate to your giving and create a specific predictive formula that is more than 90% reliable.

How accurate is the Atlas?

The Atlas is incredibly accurate.

Because there are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., there will never be a centralized database that contains all charitable contributions on a timely basis. So, the Atlas of Giving uses the same estimation processes that are used by federal and state governments, large companies, hedge funds, and academicians. The Atlas is able to identify what factors have a correlation or relationship with charitable giving over many years of record keeping. Those factors and their relative strengths are then used to create specific algorithms (formulas) that also highly reliable measurement and forecasting of charitable giving.

The Atlas forecast is very precise. For 12 months into the future, the Atlas is 90-91% accurate. For 6 months into the future, it is 94-95% accurate. For the next 3 months, accuracy is 98-99%. For the next month, accuracy is 99=100% accurate.

Like any forecast, reliability decreases and the margin of error increases as the forecasting period increases.

Our forecasts are updated each month. This enables us to account for changing events, economic conditions and policy changes.