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Giving treads water

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Despite a second straight year of recession, charitable giving in the U.S. fell only 0.5 percent to $241.92 billion in 2002, adjusted for inflation, a new report says.

While Americans gave the most ever, up 1 percent in actual dollars from a revised total of $238.46 billion in 2001, the plateau in giving mirrored patterns dating from economic recessions in the 1970s through ‘90s.

Giving last year grew 4.2 percent from 2000, says Giving USA, an annual report published by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy and prepared by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Despite the economic slump, giving may have held its own as a result of a “persistence-in-giving” effect, with firms and households giving at comparable levels from year to year, Eugene R. Tempel, the center’s executive director, says in a statement.

Hardest hit last year was foundation giving, which had grown over 10 percent in 2001 but fell 1.2 percent to $26.9 billion in 2002, down 2.7 percent adjusted for inflation.

Because giving to foundations other than corporate foundations represents only 11.2 percent of total giving, the large drop did not seriously hurt giving overall.

Giving by individuals, who account for three of every four dollars given, grew only 0.7 percent to $183.73 billion in 2002, but fell 0.9 percent, adjusted for inflation.

Corporate and corporate foundation giving, which represents 5.1 percent of giving overall, grew 10.5 percent to $12.19 billion in 2002, up 8.8 percent, adjusted for inflation.

Giving by bequest, which represents 7.5 percent of all giving, grew 2 percent to $18.1 billion, up 0.4 percent, adjusted for inflation.

Giving to human services, which account for 7.7 percent of all giving, fell 9.9 percent to $18.65 billion in 2002, compared to a 15.1 percent increase in 2001.

Gifts to other fields, including the percentage of change from 2001 and their share of total giving, include:

* Religion — $84.28 billion, up 2.3 percent, 35 percent of total.

* Education — $31.64 billion, down 1.1 percent, 13.1 percent of total.

* Health — $18.87 billion, down 2.3 percent, 7.8 percent of total.

* Arts, culture, and humanities — $12.22 billion, up 0.7 percent, 5.1 percent of total.

* Public-society benefit — $11.6 billion, down 1.9 percent, 4.8 percent of total.

* Environment and animals — $6.59 billion, up 2.8 percent, 2.7 percent of total.

* International affairs — $4.62 billion, up 11.6 percent, 1.9 percent of total.

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