Charitable giving is approaching its pre-recession peak.

The recession has been over since mid-2009, but charities are just now catching up.

Total charitable giving of some $335 billion in 2013 approached the 2007 prerecession peak of $350 billion, adjusted for inflation, according to the new Giving USA 2014 report from Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The 4.4% rise in giving last year over 2012 was the fourth consecutive year of increases in charitable donations, the report said.

Donors Raise Contributions

Giving by individuals was the single biggest contributor to the increase in 2013 over 2012, an increase of $9.7 billion in current dollars.

“We are seeing clear gains in the total amount given by individuals in the last couple of years,” Giving USA Foundation chairman L. Gregg Carlson said in a statement.

“In fact, the rise in contributions by individuals between 2011 and 2013 represents 73% of the growth in total giving during that period.”

Charitable donations in 2013 increased for three of the four sources of giving: bequests by 8.7% from $25.5 billion in 2012, foundations by 5.7% from $46.3 billion and individuals by 4.2% from $230.9 billion.

Only giving by corporations fell in 2013, by 1.9%, from $18.2 billion in 2012. This was the result of the slow 3.4% rate of growth in pretax corporate profits in 2013, according to the report.

Corporate giving as a percentage of corporate pre-tax profits was at 0.8% in 2013.

“With this decline, it makes clear how closely linked economic factors are to giving,” Carlson said.

Over the past five years, corporate giving has risen by 19.4%, compared with 12.3% for overall giving, the research showed. In 2012, soaring corporate profits pushed the rate to 16.9%. The 2012 jump in corporate giving may also explain why 2013 corporate giving appears subdued.

Charities Benefit

Most types of charities enjoyed increases in giving in 2013 compared with 2012.

The report showed that five subsectors reached or surpassed their all-time-high giving levels (in inflation-adjusted dollars) since the recession officially ended in mid-2009: education, human services, health, foundations and environment/animals.

Gifts to education grew the most in 2013, at 8.9%, driven by increases in giving to higher education and K–12 schools, among other types of education programs and organizations.

Giving to public-society benefit, arts, environment/animal and health organizations was also strong in 2013, ranging from 6% to 8.5%.

In contrast, giving to religion continued to slow in 2013 — down 0.2% from 2012.

The report said this was the result of declining religious affiliation and attendance and increased giving to religious-oriented charitable organizations categorized within other subsectors.

Giving to international affairs also slowed in 2013, down 6.7%, because of fewer disaster-relief contributions compared with prior years, as well as the decline in corporate giving and changes in donors’ preferences.

Una Osili, director of research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said in the statement that many charitable subsectors were experiencing giving at levels seen before the Great Recession.

Besides education, which appeals to donors across the board, “campaigns that appeal to different generations are doing very well,” she said. “We have seen sustained levels in giving to health in support of hospitals, medical research and even health policy initiatives, as well as a growing number of gifts in support of environmental protection.”

Arts, culture and humanities groups are also reaping benefits, Osili said, “as donors appear to be attempting to make up for the loss in funding to these organizations during the recession years.”

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