Posted July 1st, 1998

Giving USA Shows Bequest Giving Up Sharply in 1997

America’s charitable organizations and institutions received an estimated $12.63 billion from bequests in 1997, according to statistics compiled in Giving USA 1998. This figure shows that giving through bequests increased by 10% last year. If this pace continues, bequest giving will double in just seven years. Bequest giving in 1996 was reported at $11.48 billion and grew by only 7% from 1995. As a portion of total giving in the United States for 1997, bequest giving accounted for 8.8%.

Not only did charitable giving increase through bequests, but it increased in the other three sources that Giving USA studied as well–gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations. Individual giving rose 6.8% from $102.35 billion in 1996 to $109.26 billion in 1997. Foundation and corporate giving were up 11.4% and 7.5% respectively .

Total giving in 1997 increased from $133.46 billion in 1996 to $143.46 billion. This shows an overall 7.5% increase in charitable giving in the U.S. last year. When individual giving and bequest giving are combined, $121.89 billion was given by living individuals and their estates, accounting for 85% of total contributions made in 1997. Historically personal giving, either through wills or lifetime gifts, has been the largest source of charitable dollars .

The AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy reported that a strong economy and many notable philanthropic role models such as Princess Diana and Ted Turner helped spur the increase in giving in 1997. Nonprofits may have also boosted charitable giving by maintaining a more positive public image through careful management of their organizations .

Giving USA revises all past-year figures as new data becomes available. The publication also adjusts the totals that nonprofits report to them to account for charities that make contributions to each other, such as United Ways. For example, a gift to United Way is counted as an individual gift, but the United Way’s contribution to a charity is regarded as “unallocated.” This year’s “unallocated” category figure equals $15.96 billion.

In a prepared statement, Nancy L. Raybin, chair of the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, said, “When we estimate giving, the biggest challenge is determining the contributions of the two-thirds of Americans who do not file a tax return with itemized deductions.” Ms. Raybin goes on to state that this group of non-itemizers have been responsible in the past for approximately one-third of all personal giving. “There is some evidence that initial reporting of charitable giving tends to be the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

Giving USA is the annual report of the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel (AAFRC) Trust for Philanthropy. It has been publishing this report for 43 years. You may order a copy of Giving USA b y calling 1-888-5-GIVING or online at www.aafrc.org. The price for Giving USA in book form is $54.95, which includes shipping and handling. You may also purchase Giving USA on disk for $141 including shipping and handling. Giving through bequests increased by 10% last year.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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