Charitable giving in the United States rose by 7.1 percent last year to a new high of $358.38 billion, according to Giving USA, an annual report by the Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
This year’s total tops 2007’s pre-recession high of $355.17 billion. That’s good news for the nonprofit community. But the big questions remain: Who is giving and where is it going?
Individuals still make up the vast majority of donors, accounting for $258.5 billion or 72 percent of total giving.
Historically, many of these large individual donors are gifting large institutions. 2014 is no exception, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy: Universities, research institutes and foundations received the majority of large gifts.
Harvard University accounted for two spots on the top ten list. They received $350 million dollars for the School of Public Health, followed by a gift of $150 million dollars to the University for financial aid.
Where is it Going?
Religious organizations still account for the majority of dollars at 32 percent of total giving; however, this is a decline from the mid-eighties when it accounted for just over half of total giving.
Education followed, accounting for 15 percent, with human services and gifts to foundations at 12 percent of total giving each. The largest increase in giving to a subject area was seen within arts, culture and humanities, jumping up 7.4 percent from 2013.
The next largest areas of growth were seen within animal and environmental groups. The only decrease in giving was seen in international aid, a decline by 3.6 percent. This may be because there was no major natural disaster comparable in scope to what we have seen in prior years.
Last year showed a complete turnaround from the hit charitable giving took beginning in 2007. After two years of decline, 2010 saw a small increase in giving.
Ever since, levels of giving have been steadily growing, but researchers did not think they would reach pre-recession levels this quickly.
After Giving USA released its 2012 report, Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, which compiles “Giving USA”, predicted charitable giving would not get back to pre-recession levels until 2022. “If we continue to grow at this rate, it will take more than a decade to get back to where we were in total giving in 2007,” Rooney told the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2012.
However, the rate of growth exceeded initial estimates and 2015 will remain the year giving surpassed pre-recession levels.