Charitable giving reaches pre-recession peak
The headline from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy newsletter, “Giving USA: Americans Donated an Estimated $358.38 Billion to Charity in 2014; Highest Total in Report’s 60-year History,” is great news for our sector. Similar headlines in the Huffington Post, the New York Times and CNN reinforce the fact that Americans are very generous.
A report released this week by the Giving USA Foundation reports that Americans gave $358.38 billion to charity in 2014. That total just exceeds the last peak in 2007, when Americans donated $355.17 billion to nonprofits and is an all-time high since the Giving USA Foundation began its research 60 years ago.
- Individual giving, $258.51 billion, increased 5.7 percent over 2013 and represented 72 percent of the total giving;
- Foundation giving, $53.97 billion, was 8.2 percent higher than 2013 and represents 15 percent of total giving;
- Corporations contributed 5 percent of the total, giving $17.77 billion, an increase of 13.7 percent; and
- Bequests, which represent 8 percent of all gifts, increased 15.5 percent.
The question many of us ask is why? Why did the growth happen?
Laura MacDonald, chair of the Giving USA editorial review board and founder of Columbus-based nonprofit consulting firm Benefactor Group, identified some of the factors behind this growth, including the rise of tech donors and “mega-gifts” that accounted for one-third of the growth in individual giving. And, while corporate donations continue to languish at less than 1 percent of pretax profit, individual giving rose to 2.1 percent of GDP, a height not seen since prior to the 2008 recession.
She observed, “Almost every sector benefitted from the growth in giving, from religion to arts, from education to human service. While American donors’ interests may be diverse, it appears that our generosity is a shared value.”
But there might be another reason. Perhaps not only are donors able to be more generous, I think the charities are working harder and smarter, making sure their cases for support are sound and relevant. Grantmakers and nonprofits are finding a way to have meaningful conversations and are using new communication and evaluation tools.
Lucy Bernholz, one of my favorite writers in the philanthropy field, catches “Buzz Words” in action. A few she predicted in 2013 have certainly had an effect on how and why Americans give and may offer more insight into our “why” question. Could it be that we are using these Buzz Words concepts to make our field stronger?
- Social Impact Bond
- Collective Impact
- Charitable Tax Reform
I’d love to know what you think! And watch for our own report on the state of charitable giving in Ohio, due out this fall.
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.
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