Charitable Giving in U.S. Edged Up to $291B in 2010

Rebound in charitable activity follows combined drop of 13% in 2008 and 2009

Total charitable contributions from American individuals, corporations and foundations grew by 3.8% in 2010 in current dollars and 2.1% in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to estimates released Monday by Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

The Giving USA report put total estimated contributions at $291 billion in 2010, up from a revised estimate of $280 billion for 2009.

“Our revised estimates show that 2008 and 2009 saw the largest drops in giving in more than 40 years as a result of the Great Recession, exceeding previous recessions’ impact on giving,” Edith H. Falk, chair of Giving USA Foundation, said in a statement. “Despite the fragile economic recovery, though, Americans continued—and even increased—their support of organizations and causes that matter to them in 2010. The $10.59 billion increase in the estimated total suggests that giving is beginning to recover as the economy slowly climbs out of the recession.”

The announcement noted that Giving USA had revised its 2008 and 2009 estimates as the IRS revised and released its 2008 and 2009 giving estimates, which are used in Giving USA’s estimating process. It said IRS estimates showed larger than usual decreases in itemized giving.

Giving USAalso refined its estimating model to more fully reflect the effect of the recession. As a result of both changes, the study revised downward its estimates for total giving in 2008 and 2009, which were originally estimated at $307.7 billion and $303.8 billion, respectively.

“Total giving grew by 2.1% last year after adjusting for inflation. That’s good news following a combined drop of over 13% in 2008 and 2009,” Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, said in the statement. “But the sobering reality is that many nonprofits are still hurting, and if giving continues to grow at that rate, it will take five to six more years just to return to the level of giving we saw before the Great Recession.”

Giving by Type of donor

According to Giving USA, individual giving rose an estimated 2.7% in 2010, to $211.8 billion (a 1.1% increase in inflation-adjusted dollars).

Charitable bequests were estimated to be $22.8 billion, an increase of 18.8% in 2010 (16.9% in inflation-adjusted dollars). Because estate gifts and tax returns are usually completed one to two years after the donor's death, stock market changes and other asset growth have an important effect on the growth in estate giving.

Foundation grant making by private, community and operating foundations was $41 billionin 2010, according to the Foundation Center. It fell by 0.2% in current dollars (a decline of 1.8% in inflation-adjusted dollars).

Corporate giving rose to an estimated $15.3 billion, up 10.6% in current dollars (8.8% in inflation-adjusted dollars). Corporate giving continues to reflect gifts of in-kind donations on behalf of American companies, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.

Giving by Type of Recipient

Giving USAalso broke out types of charitable recipients:

  • Giving to religion, at 35% of the total, remains the largest share of all contributions, with an estimated $100.6 billion. The estimated increase in 2010 was 0.8% in current dollars, with a small decline of the same amount, 0.8%, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Giving to education rose to an estimated $41.7 billion, an increase of 5.2% in current dollars (3.5% in inflation-adjusted dollars). This is the first year of an increase in giving after two years of declines. Educational organizations received an estimated 14% of the total.
  • Giving to foundations rose slightly to $33 billion, an increase of 1.9% in current dollars (0.2% in inflation-adjusted dollars). The Foundation Center and the Center on Philanthropy jointly estimate contributions to this type of recipient, which includes private, community and operating foundations. This subsector received an estimated 11% of the total.
  • Giving to human services is estimated to be $26.5 billion, an increase of 0.1% in current dollars but a decrease of 1.5% in inflation-adjusted dollars. This subsector received an estimated 9% of the total. Human services includes the majority of the $1.4 billion donated to Haiti disaster relief.
  • Giving to health also shows an estimated increase, to $22.8 billion (1.3% in current dollars or a decline of 0.3% in inflation-adjusted dollars). This was 8% of the total.
  • Giving to public-society benefit organizations, including certain types of donor-advised funds and umbrella organizations that collect donations and redistribute them to other charities, was an estimated $24.2 billion, an increase of 6.2% in current dollars (4.5% in inflation-adjusted dollars). This subsector received 8% of the total.
  • Giving to arts, culture and humanities organizations rose an estimated 5.7% in current dollars (4.1% in inflation-adjusted dollars), to $13.3 billion. This subsector was 5% of the 2010 total.
  • Giving to international affairs, including relief, development and public policy activities, increased an estimated 15.3% in current dollars (13.5% in inflation-adjusted dollars), reaching $15.8 billion. This was 5% of the total.
  • Giving to environment/animal-related organizations declined 0.7% in current dollars (a decline of 2.3% in inflation-adjusted dollars), to an estimated $6.7 billion. This was 2% of the total.
  • Giving to individuals includes grants from foundations to benefit named individuals. Most often, these are gifts of medications to patients in need and are made by operating foundations created by pharmaceutical manufacturers. These gifts are estimated to have remained relatively steady in 2010, at $4.2 billion or 2% of the total.

Every year, Giving USA also calculates the unallocated piece of the giving “pie”; for 2010, it said, this is estimated to be $2.1 billion, or 1% of all giving. These are dollars that cannot be attributed to any one particular sector.

Giving USAhas reported U.S. charitable contributions since 1956. The national results from Giving USA estimate all charitable giving to all charitable organizations in the U.S. The national estimates do not show changes that any one organization or any one geographical region or city might have observed; they calculate total giving by about 75 million households across the U.S., the approximately 1.0 to 1.5 million corporations that claim charitable deductions, an estimated 120,000 estates and about 77,000 foundations. The gifts go to more than 1.2 million IRS-registered charities and an estimated additional 350,000 American religious congregations.

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