New Benevity Labs Report Highlights Hot Button Issues Impacting Charitable Giving


Politically Charged Events Drive Spikes in Donations, Indicating Social Issues Likely to Ignite People’s Passions During 2020 Election

CALGARY, AB – December 19, 2019 – Benevity, Inc., the global leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and employee engagement software, today released a report analyzing how current hot button political and social issues are impacting the charitable giving patterns of today’s top corporations. The report, which analyzes more than three years of data on workplace giving from 350 Benevity clients and more than 1 million of their people, shows that while traditional charities continue to dominate the list of top ten causes receiving donations annually overall, spikes in donations to politically charged causes are indicative of which social issues are likely to ignite people’s passions during the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Focusing on donations made through the Benevity platform from January 2016 through September 15, 2019, the Benevity report looked at activity related to key themes appearing in the ten biggest news stories of 2018 according to Google Trends: income inequality, immigration, women’s rights, climate change and gun safety. Surprisingly, while these issues are dominating the news cycle and already shaping the 2020 U.S. elections, they only account for less than 10 percent of action, measured by donation volume to related causes. These five cause categories do, however, represent the largest momentary spikes in giving activity, suggesting an ongoing shift in how people are responding to real-time events—through purpose-driven, in-the-moment action.

In its 2017 Cause Rank Shift report, Benevity found that the 2016 election cycle kicked off a major shift in corporate giving trends, as more politically active organizations like the ACLU and immigrants rights groups like Islamic Relief Worldwide saw an increase in attention, appearing in the top ten list of causes for the first time ever. (For example, in the months following the 2016 election, donations to the ACLU jumped 330 percent). The 2019 report shows spikes in reactionary giving following politically charged events continuing to the tune of $332 million in total donations, even as the top causes have stabilized, with fewer shifts in the rankings.

Following are key findings of the report across each of the issues analyzed:

  • Income Inequality – Of the five cause categories analyzed, income inequality receives the highest donation amounts (31 percent) and the largest number of direct donations from both individuals and companies, accounting for $102M. This category includes a number of organizations that provide for people’s basic needs, like food and shelter. The data reveals a strong correlation between giving spikes and unexpected disasters like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the California wildfires in 2019, suggesting a trend toward supporting immediate needs of those most vulnerable rather than giving to causes that address the systemic issues of economic disparity.
  • Immigration – A total of $90.8M went to immigration-related causes in the past three years, with ACLU continuing as one of the top recipients. The Trump Immigration ban in February 2017 sparked a significant spike in donations (5,055% YoY month increase), and RAICES moved from position #117 to #2 on Benevity’s list of top recipients in 2019, following ongoing coverage of border detentions.
  • Women’s Rights – A total of $83.6M went to women’s rights causes over the period of the Benevity study. When an executive order to defund Planned Parenthood occurred in early 2017, the organization saw a sustained increase in donations at 4x their average amount for several months. In Fall 2018, another 40 percent uptick in donations was seen as the Brett Kavanaugh hearings were underway and several states were enacting abortion restrictions. Planned Parenthood consistently holds steady in the top five ranked causes overall, and currently sits at #2. This cause category spans 3,341 organizations, addressing wide ranging issues from reproductive rights and gender equality to domestic violence and both technical and sexual education.
  • Climate change – The U.S. government’s roll-back of environmental regulations and announcement that the U.S. would exit The Paris Agreement triggered an immediate 26-fold increase in donations to Natural Resources Defense. Another notable 75 percent increase occurred across the entire cause category as the Amazon rainforest fires hit news headlines in 2019. Among the five categories, climate change has the second-lowest share of total donation dollars at $53.7M, indicating that people may be supporting climate change issues through other behaviors, like purchasing sustainable products and making eco-friendly lifestyle changes.
  • Gun safety – $2.8M went to gun-related causes over the past three years, with spikes in giving associated with mass shootings like the Vegas outdoor music festival shooting and Parkland school shooting. Prior to September 2017, the ratio of donation dollars going to gun-control versus pro-gun organizations was 2:1, but since the Vegas shooting in October 2017, the ratio has changed to 4:1 (gun-control vs. pro-gun causes) and rose as high as 24:1 when other mass shootings were in the news.

Overall, these trends suggest a more reactionary response to issue-related giving overall, with intense spikes followed by periods of relatively low activity. The data also shows that people tend to support short-term needs rather than addressing long-term systemic issues (giving to food banks following natural disasters instead of climate change groups, for instance).

“As we’ve seen by the recent push for a broader definition of corporate purpose, the time has come for companies to leverage the trust invested in them to create change, improve the state of the world, and in the process, win loyalty of their employees, customers and communities.

— Bryan de Lottinville, Benevity Founder and CEO

“This data highlights a critical opportunity for companies to go further in authentically addressing the underlying drivers behind some of society’s biggest issues while meeting the deep need for people to be part of something bigger than themselves,” said Bryan de Lottinville, Benevity Founder and CEO. “As we’ve seen by the recent push for a broader definition of corporate purpose, the time has come for companies to leverage the trust invested in them to create change, improve the state of the world, and in the process, win the loyalty of their employees, customers and communities. ”

Download the full Benevity Labs report: Of the people, by the people, for the people: What politically charged giving trends mean for companies in 2020.

About Benevity Benevity, Inc., a certified B Corporation, is the global leader in corporate social responsibility and employee engagement software, including online giving, matching, volunteering, community investment and purpose driven actions. Many of the world’s most iconic brands rely on Benevity’s award-winning cloud solutions to power corporate “Goodness” programs that attract, retain and engage today’s diverse workforce by connecting people to the causes that matter to them. With software that is available in 17 languages, to an employee base of 12 million users around the world, Benevity has processed almost 4 billion dollars in donations and 23 million hours of volunteering time to almost 200,000 charities worldwide.

Media Contact Amanda Orr Kickstart for Benevity 1.323.601.5734