Posted , by Nancy Chapman. Topic: Giving USA.

Now that we’ve had a chance to digest and discuss the data from Giving USA 2010, here are the most important takeaways for nonprofits.

It’s no surprise that charitable giving declined in 2009. What did surprise us is that it dropped by only 3.6 percent, given last year’s economy and job market. And giving by individuals barely changed at all—down only 0.4 percent.

Again Americans stepped up to support the causes most in need. Total giving was $303.75 billion, making 2009 the third year in a row that giving topped $300 billion. Giving to human services and health organizations rose by 2.6 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Categories that saw declines were education, public-society benefit, and arts and culture, most likely because donors turned to other causes and some major campaigns were put on hold.

If your organization took a bigger hit, it could be because you rely more heavily on government funding, foundation funding, and special events. This leads into what we consider to be the most important data nonprofits need to know: in 2009 corporate giving was only 4 percent of all giving and foundations were only 13 percent, but individuals accounted for 75 percent. And when bequests and family foundations are added to individuals, the percentage jumps to 89.

So, if your board members insist on putting their fundraising focus on corporate and foundation giving, that number should be their wake-up call. Considering that individuals are the source of 89 percent of all giving, we can’t stress enough that this is where every nonprofit’s focus should be.

What’s in store for 2010? The Chronicle of Philanthropy surveyed 400 charities and reports that in the first quarter, giving grew by a median rate of 11 percent. That sounds hopeful to us. What do you think?

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