Giving tops $260 billion in 2005

By Ret Boney

Donations in response to natural disasters drove overall charitable giving in the U.S. to $260.28 billion in 2005, a new report says.

Giving jumped 6.1 percent over 2004, or 2.7 percent after adjusting for inflation, says Giving USA, a report published annually by the Giving USA Foundation and researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

In what otherwise would have been a flat year, with an inflation-adjusted drop in giving of 0.2 percent, the study says, $7.37 billion in disaster-related donations pushed total giving to its second-highest level in the study’s 51 years.

“The disaster giving, being at the significant level it is, is an affirmation of the American spirit,” says Richard T. Jolly, chair of the Giving USA Foundation.  “Because were it not for that, we would have assumed that things would have stayed flat.”

Given disaster and non-disaster donations reported by nonprofits, researchers say, disaster donations were made in addition to regular gifts, rather than replacing them.

Living individuals were by far the largest source of giving last year, representing 76.5 of all giving, up 2.9 percent after inflation to $199.07 billion, with average giving per household equaling the 40-year average of 2.2 percent of after-tax income.

However, bequests from individual estates, which made up 6.7 percent of overall giving last year, fell 8.6 percent after inflation to $17.44 billion, the report says, likely due to a drop in deaths of 50,000 from 2004.

The share of overall giving by living and deceased individuals combined fell to an all-time low of 83.2 percent in 2005, due to sharp increases in corporate giving, primarily in response to disaster, and increased foundation grantmaking, the study says.

Foundation giving grew an inflation-adjusted 2.1 percent to $30 billion, accounting for 11.5 percent of overall giving in 2005.

That total includes $160 million in grants aimed at disaster relief, the report says, but does not include pledges for future grants.

Donations from corporations and their affiliated foundations jumped 18.5 percent after inflation to $13.77 billion, including $1.38 billion in disaster-relating giving, to make up 5.3 percent of overall giving.

Human services groups saw the largest increase in funding, with a post-inflation jump of 28 percent to $25.36 billion, following three years of declines in receipts.

“It’s most likely related to disaster,” Jolly says of the spike, which included $3.31 billion in disaster-related giving.  “We need to wait a little longer to see what that’s indicating.”

Arts, culture and humanities groups fared worst in 2005, with a decline in receipts of 6.6 percent after inflation to $13.51 billion, which included about $40 million in disaster-related gifts, the study says.

Additional findings from the study include:

* Donations to religious organizations totaled $93.18 billion last year, up 2.5 percent after inflation and representing 35.8 percent of all giving.

* Giving to educational institutions rose 9.4 percent after inflation to $38.56 billion, representing 14.8 percent of overall giving.

* Giving to foundations grew 3.3 percent to $21.7 billion, or 8.3 percent of all giving, and included $50 million in disaster funds.

* Health organizations received $22.54 billion, down 0.7 percent after inflation, accounting for 8.7 percent of overall giving.

* Groups benefiting public society saw an increase in giving of 4.7 percent after inflation, to $14.03 billion, including $260 million in disaster-relief donations to groups like the United Way and Jewish federations.

* Groups benefiting the environment and animals received $8.86 billion, up 12.6 percent and accounting for 3.4 percent of overall giving.

* Gifts to international affairs groups, including humanitarian-aid groups, grew 15.6 percent after inflation to $6.39 billion, including $1.14 billion in disaster-relief giving.

* Individuals accounted for almost eight of every 10 disaster-relief dollars donated in 2005, while corporations gave almost two in 10 dollars, and foundations accounted for about 2 percent of the total.

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