According to a new report from Giving USA, donations from America’s individuals, estates, foundations and corporations grew 4.1 percent to an estimated $373.25 billion in 2015.
“If you look at total giving by two-year time spans, the combined growth for 2014 and 2015 hit double digits, reaching 10.1 percent when calculated using inflation-adjusted dollars,” said Giving USA Foundation Chair W. Keith Curtis. “But 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.”
Individual donors remain the leaders in charitable giving representing over 71 percent ($264.6 billion) of all giving in 2015. Individuals were followed by foundations ($58.5 billion) and bequests ($31.8 billion) with corporate donations bringing up the rear ($18.4 billion).
Religious organizations took in by far the largest percentage of gifts (32 percent) in 2015 followed by educational organizations (15 percent) and human services (12 percent). Only 3 percent of the nation’s charitable donations went to environmental or animal-focused groups and about 5 percent went to arts, culture and the humanities causes.
Even though charitable giving increases are typically a sign of a healthy or growing economy, some believe that the current giving trend is out-pacing economic growth.
“Consider this: Inflation-adjusted total giving grew at an annualized average rate of 3.6 percent [between 2010 and 2015]; meanwhile, GDP growth [hit] an average rate of 2 percent,” said Jeffrey Byrne, chairman of The Giving Institute, the parent organization of the Giving USA Foundation.
According to a U.S. News and World Report article written by Andrew Soergel, “even though the growth in charitable giving in the last two years has steadily outpaced overall economic output in the U.S. Donations were up 4.1 percent last year and 7.8 percent the year before, while GDP expanded at a more modest 2.4 percent clip in both of those years. Wage growth also has stubbornly hovered around 2 percent over the last few years, indicating Americans have recently begun donating more money than economic conditions would naturally warrant.”
So will the giving continue? It appears so. According to a new Gallup poll, 77 percent of U.S. donors plan to give about the same amount in 2016 as they did in 2015.
The same Gallup poll indicates that most donors contribute a majority of their donations to only two organizations. Gallup says that “organizations that are not considered a first or second choice typically receive a one-time-only donation. Slightly more than four in 10 donors (42%) say they have made a single donation to a charitable organization in the past 12 months, while another 28% have done the same with two organizations.”