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U.S./world – Charity surge – Giving grows; fewer households give

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By Todd Cohen

Charity in the U.S. is big business and becoming bigger, a new report says.

The number of nonprofits and their revenues and spending all grew in the past 10 years, as did their share of the gross domestic product, total employment and income, Independent Sector says in the report.

Average household contributions to charity also grew, along with the number of volunteers, while the share of households reporting contributions and the average time contributed by adult volunteers both fell.

Pat Read, vice president for public affairs at Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofits, says the sector is growing because “more people are seeing the need, and wanting to address it themselves by creating new organizations rather than working through established nonprofits.”

And with increasing demand on Americans’ time, “fewer households are giving more intensely,” she says, adding that nonprofits are developing new models of volunteering to accommodate an increasingly busier and older population.

Growth also has attracted increased focus on nonprofits, says Read, former executive director of the Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

“We’re a more diverse sector than ever before,” she says. “The competition to gain the attention of volunteers and donors is clearly getting more intense and it raises the bar for nonprofits to maintain the highest standards of accountability and performance.”

Among highlights of the report, The New Nonprofit Almanac In Brief, and trends based on the report:

* The number of charitable nonprofits grew to 734,000 in 1998 from 422,000 in 1987.

* The number of “independent sector” organizations – including charitable nonprofits, religious congregations and civic leagues and social-welfare groups – grew to 1.2 million from 907,000.

* The number of all tax-exempt organizations – including charitable nonprofits, religious congregations and tax-exempt business groups such as chambers of commerce and credit unions – grew to 1.6 million from 1.3 million.

* Total revenues of independent-sector groups grew to $664.8 billion in 1997, the most recent year for which data were available, from $316.7 billion in 1987.

* Total spending by charitable groups grew to $551.6 billion in 1997, or 6.63 percent of gross domestic product, from $272.7 billion in 1987, or 5.75 percent of gross domestic product.

* Paid employees of independent-sector groups grew to 10.9 million in 1998, or 7.1 percent of the U.S. workforce, from 7.4 million in 1987, or 5.7 percent of the workforce.

* Volunteers for independent-sector groups grew to 5.7 million in 1998, or 3.7 percent of the workforce, from 5.1 million in 1987, or 3.9 percent.

* Overall independent-sector employment – paid employees and volunteers – grew to 16.6 million in 1998, or 10.8 percent of the workforce, from 12.5 million in 1987, or 9.6 percent.

* Income of all tax-exempt nonprofits – including the value of volunteer time — accounted for 6.7 percent of national income in 1998, up from 6.5 percent in 1987, while independent-sector groups accounted for 6.1 percent of national income in 1998, up from 5.7 percent in 1987.

* The average contribution to charity from households making a contribution grew to $1,075 in 1998 from $978 in 1989, while the percentage of households reporting contributions fell to 70.1 percent in 1998 from 75.1 percent in 1989.

* The average contribution for all households grew to $754 in 1998 from $734 in 1989.

* The average contribution from a household in which people volunteered grew to $1,339 in 1998 from $1,192 in 1987.

* The number of volunteers grew to 109.4 million in 1998, or 55.5 percent of the adult population, from 98.4 million in 1989, or 54.4 percent of the adult population.

* But the average time contributed each week by adult volunteers fell to 3.5 hours in 1998 from 4 hours in 1989.

* The value of time contributed by volunteers grew to $225.9 billion in 1998 from $169.6 billion in 1989.

* While health-services groups still employed the most workers in the independent sector, its share of employees fell to 42.9 percent in 1998 from 47 percent in 1982, possibly because of the conversion of nonprofit hospitals to for-profit status.

* The share of employees working for social and legal services groups, by comparison, grew to 17.5 percent in 1998 from 14.1 percent in 1982, partly because of increased demand for services from very young people and elderly people.

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