Want to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with fundraising in our great country? The best way to do that is the check out the annual report on philanthropy: Giving USA. Every year, I use this report to educate nonprofit staff, board members, and volunteer fundraisers about the trends in philanthropy.

If you aren’t familiar with Giving USA, you can read more about how they got started (60 years ago), what methods they use, and how they collect the data by clicking here.

If you know all about Giving USA but haven’t checked out the recently released results for giving last year, here’s a summary of the findings:

Total contributions to nonprofit organizations in 2014 totaled $358.38 billion! This reflects an overall increase of 7.1% over the previous year (or 5.4% adjusted for inflation). A big majority of this money is given by individuals – 72% in fact. The next biggest category is Foundations (15%) followed by bequsts (8%) and corporations hold the smallest percentage at 5%. Total inflation-adjusted giving in 2014 is estimated to have surpassed the highs seen prior to the recession. Great news!

Giving by individuals increased by 5.7%, giving my foundations increased by 8.2%, giving by bequest increased 15.5%, and giving by corporations increased 13.7%. That’s an increase in every major category of giving. The increase in corporate giving is especially notable. Corporate pre-tax profit rose 8.3% and GDP increased 3.9%, influencing the rise in giving. Corporate giving as a percentage of pre-tax profits is still low at just 0.7%, and keep in mind that a large percentage of this giving is in-kind donations, especially software and pharmaceuticals.

So what do we do with this information? Well, first of all, this summary tells us that we should be spending a majority of our efforts on INDIVIDUAL donors. When you include gifts from individuals with bequests and family foundations, almost 9/10 of all money given to charity is given by an individual. You can also use this information to benchmark how your organization is doing. Are you getting back to the giving levels you saw before the recession? What percentage of your budget is each revenue source mentioned? Where can you improve?

I don’t know about you, but looking at those huge numbers is exciting to me. Think of all the amazing things we do in this industry to make our world a better place. I’m proud to be a part of it. You can download a free copy of the highlights, or purchase a more detailed version, by visiting Giving USA.