Americans’ Charitable Giving Hits a New High

Overall donations have surpassed pre-recession levels, but who receives that money is shifting dramatically.

Americans’ Charitable Giving Hits a New High Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013

Americans were more giving than ever before in 2014, donating a record $358.38 billion to charity.

Their generosity is detailed in the Giving USA report, produced by the Giving USA Foundation, which is an initiative of The Giving Institute, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Donations were up 7 percent over 2013, the report said, finally inching past an inflation-adjusted peak of $355.17 billion recorded in 2007 before the recession.

“Individual giving is affected by available disposable income at the household level, wealth and growth in the S&P 500,” W. Keith Curtis, foundation chairman and president of the nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group, told CNN Money. “All three increased last year as did the amount people spent in general — not just on charitable donations.”

The biggest share of the donations – $114.9 billion – was in religious giving. But according to the Christian Science Monitor, religious donations are on the decline.

“When adjusted for inflation, donations to religious organizations grew just 0.9 percent year over year – the smallest increase among all categories,” the Monitor said.

Considering the growing number of Americans who declare no religious affiliation (56 million last year), it’s really no surprise that religious donations are diminishing, the Monitor said.

Giving to the arts, culture and humanities category showed the biggest year-over-year increase in the Giving USA report, growing 7.4 percent (when adjusted for inflation).

“While the overall growth is indicative of robust philanthropy … we would be remiss to gloss over what is happening with giving to religion,” Giving Institute Chairman David King said in the report’s press release. Religious giving “is continuing its 30-year dramatic downward slide,” King notes. “In fact, it has dropped from 53 percent of all donations in 1987 to 32 percent of the total in 2014.”

Here’s the breakdown of who’s giving in the United States:

  • Individuals: $258.51 billion, up 5.7 percent from 2013.
  • Foundations: $53.97 billion, up 8.2 percent.
  • Bequests: $28.13 billion, up 15.5 percent.
  • Corporations: $17.77 billion, up 13.7 percent.

Which organizations do you support through charitable giving? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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