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About Charitable Giving

How much is given?

            Americans give a lot to charity: $260.3 billion in 2005, a $15 billion increase over 2004.  This is a 6.1% increase over 2004, though it is only a 2.7% increase if you consider the impact of inflation. 

This total includes giving by individuals, corporations and foundations.  These figures come from Giving USA, an annual summary of giving in the United States published by the Giving Institute (AAFRC.org). 

About half of the increase in giving was a result of donations in response to three natural disasters – the tsunami, the Gulf Coast hurricanes and the earthquake in Pakistan.  When disaster gifts are excluded, donations were about even with 2004, after inflation. 

“This suggest that the disaster did not cause people to cut back their giving to other causes last year,” according to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

A survey of large charities done by Giving USA found that 59% reported an increase in charitable gifts. 

 

Where does all this money come from?

            Individuals give away most of this money: $199 billion in 2005, or 76.5% of all giving.  Giving by individuals went up 6.4% before inflation.  Bequests -- giving by individuals who have died -- added up to another $17.44 billion.

            A large part of individual giving goes to religious organizations, which received $93.2 billion in 2005. 

            Foundations gave away $30 billion in 2005, or 11.5% of all giving.  This is a 5.6% increase.  The Foundation Center attributes this increase to a growth in the number of foundations and the rise in the stock market in 2004.

            Corporations greatly increased their giving in 2005, up 22.5%, to $13.77 billion.  This increase in part reflects corporate donations of money and products in response to the natural disasters 

            All these figures are estimates, being based on data from charities, other research on giving and a statistical model that takes economic conditions into account to project how much is given.  Data about giving reported to the IRS is not released until two years after donations were made.  As a result, these annual giving figures are often adjusted, sometimes by a considerable amount. 

           

How much do people give?       

            It is hard to know for sure how much of their income people give away.  According to the Giving USA figures, individuals gave 2.2% of their income in 2005.

            However, according to IRS data, people who itemized their deductions in 1997 gave away about 3% of their income. Nearly 89% of those who itemized their deductions made contributions. Itemized contributions include gifts of property, such as donations of clothes or an old car.

A survey by Roper Reports found the 42% of American gave money or time to “social causes” in 2005, an increase from 35% in 2004.  The organization said that this increase was mostly the result of people responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

            An online poll conducted by Harris Interactive found that nine in 10 Americans said that they donated to charity.  One reason for this big difference may be the word “charity” versus “social causes.”  Many people consider charitable giving to include giving to religious institutions.

            People who give to churches and religious groups give more than other people, according to a 2002 survey done by Independent Sector.  They give an average of $1391 to their religious institution and $958 to other charities.  Those who give only to nonreligious charities contributed $623 on average.  

 

Who gets all this money?

            After religion ($93.2 billion in 2005), giving to colleges, universities and other educational organizations is the next largest category, totaling $38.6 billion in 2005

            The largest percentage increase in 2005 went to human services charities, up 32%, to $25.4 billion.  Even if you subtract giving in response to disasters, giving for human services was up 15%.    

            Giving to environmental and animal protection groups also went up a lot, more than 16%, to nearly $9 billion.  Some believe this reflects increasing concern with environmental issues such as global warming. 

Overall giving to international charities was up nearly 20%, to $6.4 billion. But when you exclude gifts in response to disasters, international giving dropped 5.1%.   

            Giving to arts, culture and humanities organizations went down by 6.6% (to a little more than $13 billion) while giving to health-related charities dropped 0.7% (to a little less than $22 billion). 

            Other categories include giving to foundations (about $24 billion), giving to “public-society benefit” organizations such as United Ways (about $13 billion) and giving to other causes (about $21 billion). 

 

Donors give more online

            Many charities saw a big increase in online donations, according to a survey of 167 charities done by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  Online gives increased 148% for these large charities, up to $908 million. 

A huge part of this increase was the result of online giving in response to the natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.  However, online giving went up even for charities that were not involved in responding to these disasters.  The median increase in online giving for these organizations was more than 50 percent. 

 

Many give their time as well as their money

            Nearly one in three Americans – a total of 65.4 million people – volunteered to help charities in 2005, according to a study done by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that oversees the federal government’s AmeriCorps program. 

            The number of volunteers is up by 6 million in the three years since the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this data, according to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

      The study found that women donate their time more often than men.  Interestingly, women who work or have children younger than 18 are more likely to volunteer than women without jobs or kids. 

Of those who volunteer, nearly one in three do so for religious groups.  After this, tutoring children, being a mentor or overseeing youth sports are the most common volunteer activities.

            Nationally, nearly 29 percent of people volunteered.  They gave an average of 50 hours during the year.

The study looks at the percentage of people who volunteer in each state.  Utah has the highest percentage of volunteers (nearly 50%) followed by Idaho, Arizona, Maryland and Montana. 

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