According to Giving USA, charitable giving totaled a record $358.4 billion last year, continuing its rebound after the lows reached during the Great Recession. After peaking at $355.17 billion in 2007 just before the financial crisis, charitable giving experienced its most severe drop since the Great Depression. After a two-year slump, philanthropic giving began a slow recovery that saw giving increase five years in a row before last year, finally reaching and slightly exceeding 2007 levels.
As usual, individuals were responsible for the greatest share of charitable gifts. When combined with charitable bequests, individual giving represented 80 percent of total estimated giving in America. Foundation giving provided
15 percent of gifts and corporations 5 percent for a total of 20 percent from non-individual sources.
Individuals typically give from discretionary income and assets, both of which had been adversely affected by the Great Recession, financial crisis and a tepid economic recovery. After seven years, income and household wealth have largely recovered, allowing individuals to give at levels not seen in almost a decade, though there is some evidence that the “recovery” in giving has come disproportionately from the top wealth and income ranges.
The road ahead.
Many of the factors that reportedly drove the increases in giving in 2014 are still in place for 2015, with household wealth continuing to reach record levels, a Dow at 18,000, falling unemployment rates, increasing real estate values and indications that wages and incomes may be increasing. If these trends hold, 2015 may be on track to become a new record year for philanthropy.
For information on Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014 go to www.givingusa.org for a complimentary executive summary or to order the full report. ■
See also: info on rebound in giving to educational institutions.