Charitable Giving in the U.S. Tops Prerecession Mark

Charitable Giving in the U.S. Tops Prerecession Mark

Sector News
Thursday, December 31, 2015

A new report on Americans’ charitable giving – including giving by foundations, corporations, individuals and bequests – shows giving has surpassed the prerecession mark. Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014 estimates a record $358.4 billion in charitable giving last year, representing an increase of 7.1% over the previous year.

The study reports 2014 as the best year ever for charitable giving, with the recovery period following the 2008 recession being much shorter than the decade-or-more many experts predicted it would take.

While Giving USA 2015 does not segment the data by state or region, studies released last year by Philanthropy Southwest and the Foundation Center suggest that southwestern states (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) hold about 10% of all foundation assets and contribute about 10% of philanthropic dollars nationally. These data also show giving by southwestern foundations growing at a faster pace than national giving – 14.86% in the southwestern region compared to 10.80% for the U.S. (comparison years 2008-2012).

In terms of the areas the giving supported, Giving USA 2015 reports religious institutions receiving the largest percentage of gifts (32%). The study also notes that this figure represents a significant decrease from previous years when religious organizations received 40% to 50% of all giving. Education received the second largest percent of charitable donations (15%), followed by Human Services (12%).

Last year, Philanthropy Southwest reported in its 2014 Giving Study: An Overview of Grantmaking by Private and Community Foundations in the Southwest the largest percentages of foundation giving (foundations only, not individuals or corporations) for the region supported education (35%) and human services (16%). Religious institutions received 5.1% of giving by southwestern foundations.

Amidst the good news reported in Giving USA 2015, several issues were identified for philanthropists to pay attention to, including:

  • Foundations: While the growth in foundation giving appears healthy with an increase of 8.2% (representing 15% of total giving), Americans increased their contributions to foundations by just 1% last year. Giving USA researchers speculate this may be attributed to individuals steering their money to donor-advised funds instead of foundations.
  • Corporations: Even as corporate giving grew by 13.7% last year, it represents only 0.7% of corporate pre-tax profits.
  • Individuals: The rise in giving by Americans was not commensurate with gains in disposable income. The percentage Americans donated remained at 2% of disposable income in both 2013 and 2014, a slight increase from the 1.8-to-1.9-percent range, where it hovered from 2008 through 2012.

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