Americans’ Charitable Giving Hits a New High

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Here's who is giving the most and the causes receiving the most from this surge of post-Recession generosity.

Americans love to give. We opened our pocketbooks wider than ever before in 2015, donating a record $373.25 billion.

That’s according to a new report from Giving USA. The record-breaking total is an increase of 4.1 percent from 2014 – another record-breaking donation year – and includes donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations.

“The last two years represent the highest and second-highest totals for giving — and the third- and fourth-largest percentage increases in giving — in the past 10 years, adjusted for inflation,” Amir Pasic, dean of Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said in a statement.

“These findings embody more than numbers — they also are a symbol of the American spirit. It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before,” Giving USA Foundation Chairman W. Keith Curtis, said in a statement.

Although large charitable donations ($100 million and more) do play a role in the numbers and often garner the most publicity, it’s the generosity of individual Americans, who contributed $264.58 billion in 2015, that’s really impressive.

Here’s a breakdown of the $373.25 billion in donations received last year:

  • Individual giving: $264.58 billion (3.8 percent increase from 2014)
  • Foundation giving: $58.46 billion (6.5 percent increase)
  • Charitable bequests: $31.76 billion (2.1 percent increase)
  • Corporate giving: $18.45 billion (3.9 increase)

“Philanthropy is quite democratic and always has been — more people give than vote in the U.S.— and $20, $10 and $1 gifts do make a cumulative difference,” said Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, in a statement.

Giving USA identified the following two factors as helping to push charitable giving to new heights in the last two years: the improving national economy and stabilizing household finances.

Of the nine categories that Giving USA’s research covers, just one — foundations — did not see a growth in contributions in 2015. Religion continued to be the category that received the largest proportion of contributions, but its share of the total continued a gradual decline. Here’s the breakdown in giving to the various sectors:

  • Religion: Received an estimated $119.30 billion in 2015 (a 2.6 percent increase over 2014, after inflation)
  • Education: $57.48 billion (8.8 percent increase)
  • Human services: $45.21 billion (4.1 percent increase)
  • Foundations: $42.26 billion (4.0 percent decrease)
  • Health: $29.81 billion (1.2 percent increase)
  • Public-society benefit: $26.95 billion (5.9 percent increase)
  • Arts/culture/humanities: $17.07 billion (6.8 percent increase)
  • International affairs: $15.75 billion (17.4 percent increase)
  • Environment/animals: $10.68 billion (6.1 percent increase)

What organizations or causes do you target with your charitable gifts? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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