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Americans Give Record $358 Billion to Charity

18 June 2015 at 11:17 am
Xavier Smerdon
Americans gave an estimated $US358.38 billion to charity in 2014,breaking a record that has stood for 60 years, with the majority of “mega-gifts” given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs, according to the latest Giving USA report.

Xavier Smerdon | 18 June 2015 at 11:17 am


Americans Give Record $358 Billion to Charity
18 June 2015 at 11:17 am

Americans gave an estimated $US358.38 billion to charity in 2014,breaking a record that has stood for 60 years, with the majority of “mega-gifts” given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs, according to the latest Giving USA report.

The total slightly exceeded the benchmark year of 2007, when giving hit an estimated inflation-adjusted $355.17 billion.

The 2014 total jumped 7.1 percent in current dollars over the revised estimate of $339.94 billion that Americans donated in 2013, according to Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

In addition, 2014 marked the fifth year in a row where giving went up. The average annual increase was 5.5 percent in current dollars.

All four sources of giving – individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests – upped 2014 donations to America’s 1-million-plus charities according to the report, which is the longest-running of its kind in America, published by Giving USA Foundation.

The report is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“The 60-year high for total giving is a great story about resilience and perseverance,” Keith Curtis, Foundation Chair and President consulting firm The Curtis Group, said.

“It’s also interesting to consider that growth was across the board, even though criteria used to make decisions about giving differ for each source.”

2014 Charitable Giving by Source include:

  • Individual giving, $258.51 billion, or 72 percent of the total, increased 5.7 percent in current dollars (4 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.

  • Foundation giving, $53.97 billion, or 15 percent of the total, was 8.2 percent higher than 2013 (6.5 percent when inflation-adjusted).

  • Bequest giving, $28.13 billion, or 8 percent of the total, increased 15.5 percent (13.6 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.

  • Corporate giving, $17.77 billion, or 5 percent of the total, increased 13.7 percent (11.9 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.

“As we mark the fifth consecutive year of growth in total giving, it is also encouraging that all but one of the recipient categories saw generally healthy gains last year,”  Dr Amir Pasic, Dean of  The Giving Institute, said.

“While circumstances vary from organization to organization, it appears that the nonprofit sector overall can at last focus on expanding giving rather than regaining lost ground.”

2014 Charitable Giving to Recipients

Giving USA’s research covers nine different categories of charities

  • Religion—at $114.90 billion, 2014 giving increased 2.5 percent in current dollars,

  • Education—giving increased to $54.62 billion, 4.9 percent more in current dollars than the 2013 total,

  • Human Services—its $42.10 billion total was 3.6 percent higher, in current dollars, than in 2013

  • Health—the $30.37 billion 2014 estimate was 5.5 percent higher, in current dollars, than 2013,

  • Arts/Culture/Humanities—at an estimated $17.23 billion, growth in current dollars was 9.2 percent in 2014,

  • Environment/Animals—The $10.50 billion estimate for 2014 was up 7.0 percent in current dollars,

  • Public-Society Benefit—the $26.29 billion estimate for 2014 increased 5.1 percent in current dollars over 2013,

  • Foundations—at an estimated $41.62 billion in 2014, giving grew 1.8 percent in current dollars

  • International Affairs—the $15.10 billion estimate for 2014 decreased 2.0 percent, in current dollars, from 2013,

(An additional $6.42 billion, or 2 percent of the total, went to individuals, largely via in-kind donations of medicine from patient assistance programs.)

Large gifts—$200 million or more—made large impact

“We saw several very large gifts greater than $200 million—a few were greater than $500 million and one was nearly $2 billion—in 2014,” Dr Patrick Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the school said.

“The majority of these ‘mega-gifts’ were given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs. These gifts are high-impact and are addressing many critical issues of our time, particularly medical research.”

  • Jump in individual giving – 5.7 percent – made greatest impact

The 5.7 percent more that individuals donated in 2014 over 2013 accounted for 58 percent of last year’s total growth in giving.

  • Foundation giving on the rise; all three kinds upped 2014 gifts

  • Not only did total giving by foundations grow 8.2 percent in 2014, gifts from all three types – community, independent and operating – also went up. The annual changes in this category are influenced most by grants from independent foundations; their 2014 gifts were 7.8 percent higher than in 2013 and accounted for 74 percent of the category’s total.

  • Taking the long view on total charitable giving, Rooney noted that while total inflation-adjusted giving has grown beyond its prior peak, a bit of caution is warranted.

“As three of the four sources of giving have not yet exceeded their previous peak levels, with only foundation giving reaching its prior high, it is still too early to tell if total giving will sustain above the pre-recession level,” Rooney said.

“That being said, we are optimistic that giving will soon return to and exceed the high levels seen prior to the Great Recession across all categories analyzed in Giving USA.”

“It’s not only fantastic to see significant growth in total giving, it’s also encouraging that six types of nonprofits — two-thirds of the ones covered in Giving USA—reached historic high-water marks last year,”  David H. King, CFRE, Chair of the Institute said.

“While the overall growth is indicative of robust philanthropy to a wide spectrum of nonprofits and, thus, of all boats rising with the tide, we would be remiss to gloss over what is happening with giving to religion.

“Although 2014 donations reached a new high of $114.90 billion, and, as always, accounted for the largest percentage of donations, the fact is, this category is continuing its 30-year dramatic downward slide as a share of total giving. In fact, it has dropped from 53 percent of all donations in 1987 to 32 percent of the total in 2014.”

Giving to foundations, public-society benefit and international affairs has not yet returned to peak levels. Dr Una Osili, Director of Research at the school, said several notable trends affected donations to those three sectors.

“We found a dramatic slowing down of giving to support the largest national donor-advised funds in 2014. This may have slightly dampened giving to the public-society benefit subsector,” Osili said.

“We also know that giving to some pass-through charities—those that redistribute their funds to other organizations—have seen little to no growth in recent years.

“When it comes to international affairs, donors appear to be increasing their attention to domestic causes in recent years, due to increased needs in the U.S. Additionally, giving to international affairs in 2014 may have been affected by the fact that there was not a major international natural disaster on the scale that we have seen in some recent years, which tends to influence giving to this category.

”The trend of very large gifts to foundations has been holding steady for the past few years, so giving to foundations is close to achieving a high point again.

“Gifts to foundations peaked in 2007, when they reached an inflation-adjusted total of $43 billion. That year, several extraordinarily large gifts – including several higher than $500 million and one that exceeded $1 billion – factored into the total.”

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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