Giving in U.S. falls 3.6 percent

PJ Staff Report

Charitable giving in the U.S. fell an estimated 3.6 percent to $303.75 billion in 2009 from a revised total of $315.08 billion in 2008, or 3.2 percent when adjusted for a slight price deflation in the economy, a new report says.

In the face of the recession, the inflation-adjusted decline was less severe than the drop of 5.5 percent in the recession year of 1974, says Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Charitable giving in 2008 fell 2 percent, or 5.7 percent after adjusting for inflation.

Giving USA also says that, based on history, giving should increase as the economy recovers but likely will lag economic growth by a year or more, with giving after previous recessions taking three to five years to get back to their pre-recession, inflation-adjusted levels.

Reflecting a long-standing pattern, individuals gave the biggest share of donations by far, and religious groups received the biggest share.

Giving by living individuals, giving through bequests, and giving by foundations all fell in 2009, with only corporate giving showing an increase, although the report notes that many news reports and polls suggested individual giving grew near the end of the year as stock market indices rose and media coverage highlighted the needs faced by charities.

Giving to human services, health, international aid, and environmental and animal-related groups all grew, while declines were posted in giving to education; religion; grantmaking foundations; arts, culture and humanities groups; and public-society benefit groups such as freestanding donor-advised funds like Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Schwab Charitable Fund, Jewish endowments and United Ways.

The types of charitable recipients that saw a drop in giving tended to be those more likely to receive gifts through capital campaigns, contributions to endowments, and donations of art and property, the report says.

“Even in a time of enormous economic upheaval, such as we saw in 2009, Americans continued to be generous to charitable causes,” Edith H. Falk, chair of Giving USA Foundation, says in a statement.

“While overall giving decline,” she says, “many donors – including individuals and foundations – made special efforts in 2009 to respond to greater humanitarian needs.”

She says some nonprofits received exceptional support from corporations, including billions of dollars in in-kind donations, particularly from tech companies and drug-makers.

Giving USA, which has reported on charitable giving in the U.S. since 1956, calculates estimated giving by over 75 million households, over one million companies, about 120,000 estates, and roughly 77,000 foundations.

That giving goes to over 1.2 million charities registered with the IRS and to another 350,000 religious congregations.

“Things could have been worse overall for those who operate the charities that make up 5 percent of the total American economy and that account for 8 percent of wages paid,” Edith Falk, chair of Giving USA Foundation, says in a statement.

Nancy Raybin, chair of the Giving Institute, parent organization of Giving USA Foundation, says charitable giving in 2000 represented 2.1 percent of gross domestic product in the U.S., marking the 13th straight year charitable giving exceeded 2 percent of GDP.

Despite the recent economic turmoil, she says in a statement, individuals, corporations and foundations in the U.S. “still reached deeply into their pool of seemingly shrinking resources to meet the needs of charitable organizations.”

Highlights of Giving USA for 2009 include:

  • Giving by living individuals, who accounted for 75 percent of all giving, fell 0.4 percent to $227.41 billion, and was flat when adjusted for inflation.
  • Charitable bequests, 8 percent of all giving, fell 23.9 percent to $23.8 billion, or 23.6 percent adjusted for inflation.
  • Giving by private, community and operating foundations, 13 percent of all giving, fell 8.9 percent to $38.44 billion, or 8.6 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving by corporations, 4 percent of all giving, grew 5.5 percent to $14.1 billion, or 5.9 percent inflation-adjusted, bringing it to within 1 percent of its level before the recession.
  • Giving by all individuals – including giving by living individuals, charitable bequests and family foundations – totaled roughly $266.61 billion and accounted for nearly 88 percent of all giving. Giving by family foundations, which was part of combined giving by all foundations, totaled $15.41 billion.
  • Giving to religion, 33 percent of all giving, fell 0.7 percent to $100.95 billion, or 0.3 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to education, 13 percent of all giving, fell 3.6 percent to $40.01 billion, or 3.2 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to grantmaking foundations, 10 percent of all giving, fell 8 percent to $31 billion, or 7.6 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to human services, 9 percent of all giving, grew 2.3 percent to $27.08 billion, or 2.7 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to health, 7 percent of all giving, grew 3.8 percent to $22.46 billion, or 4.2 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to public-society benefit groups, 8 percent of all giving, fell 4.6 percent to $22.77 billion, or 4.2 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to arts, culture and humanities, 4 percent of all giving, fell 2.4 percent to $12.34 billion, or 2 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to international aid, 3 percent of all giving, grew 6.2 percent to $8.89 billion, or 6.6 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to environmental and animal-related groups, 2 percent of all giving, grew 2.3 percent to $6.15 billion, or 2.7 percent inflation-adjusted.
  • Giving to individuals, including grants from foundations to directly benefit named individuals and typically consisting of medications to patients in need made by operating foundations created by drug-makers, represented 1 percent of all giving and remained relatively flat at $3.51 billion.

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