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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Individual Donors Drove Record Charitable Giving in 2016

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American individual donors, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390 billion to U.S. charities in 2016, a 2.7% increase in current dollars over total giving in 2015, according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016.

Charitable giving from individuals, foundations and corporations all increased in 2016, while gifts by estates fell sharply.

The report was published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It was researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

For only the sixth time in the past 40 years, giving to all nine major categories of recipient organizations grew in 2016, according to the report. The biggest increases went to environment and animal organizations, 7.2%; arts, culture and humanities, 6.4%; and international affairs, 5.8%.

Giving to health organizations rose by 5.7%, to human services by 4%, to public-society benefit groups by 3.7%, to education by 3.6%, to foundations by 3.1% and to religion by 3%.

“In 2016, we saw a number of changes from patterns we have seen in recent years,” the Lilly school’s research director, Una Osili, said in a statement. “In most years, giving to education, arts and culture and health organizations often experience similar changes in growth rates, but in 2016 arts and health giving are both notably higher than giving to education.

“Giving for international affairs also saw growth even though there were lower levels of giving for disaster relief.”

Lilly school researchers estimated that giving to individuals last year declined by 2.5% to $7 billion. The bulk of these donations are in-kind gifts of medications to patients in need, made through the Patient Assistance Programs of pharmaceutical companies’ operating foundations.

Unallocated giving was negative $1.5 billion in 2016, according to the report. It said this amount could be considered as the difference between giving by source and by use in any particular year.

It includes the difference between itemized deductions by individuals/households carried over from previous years. The tax year in which a gift is claimed by the donor (carried over) and the year when the recipient organization reports it as revenue (the year in which it is received) may be different.

Individuals Giving More

Charitable giving from individuals increased by 3.9% in 2016, totaling an estimated $282 billion.

“In 2016, we saw something of a democratization of philanthropy,” Patrick Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Lilly school, said in the statement.

“The strong growth in individual giving may be less attributable to the largest of the large gifts, which were not as robust as we have seen in some prior years, suggesting that more of that growth in 2016 may have come from giving by donors among the general population compared to recent years.”

A study released earlier this year said that giving by the biggest philanthropists in the U.S. in 2016 was down substantially from the previous two years.

Giving by foundations last year increased by 3.5% to an estimated $59 billion, the Giving USA report said, citing data provided by Foundation Center.

Corporate giving grew by 3.5% in 2016, totaling $18.6 billion.

“Corporate giving is significantly influenced by annual changes in pretax profits and gross domestic product, which was up 3%, as compared with 3.7% in 2015 and 4.2% in 2014,” Jeffrey Byrne, chair of The Giving Institute and president and chief executive of Jeffrey D. Byrne + Associates, said in the statement.

“Similarly, corporate pretax profits, which can be quite variable from year to year, grew 2.7% in 2016.”

Giving by bequest totaled an estimated $30 billion in 2016, down by 9% from 2015.

— Check out Millennial Donors ‘Bullish on Charities’ on ThinkAdvisor.


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