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Charitable giving in 2019 up 4.2 percent, Giving USA finds

Giving USA 2020 chart of charitable giving recipients by mission

“Charitable giving in 2019 up 4.2 percent” was reprinted from Giving USA.

American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $449.64 billion to U.S. charities in 2019, placing it among the highest years ever for charitable giving, according to findings in Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019, released today [June 16, 2020].

Total charitable giving rose 4.2% measured in current dollars (2.4% adjusted for inflation) over the revised total of $431.43 billion contributed in 2018. Measured in current dollars, giving in 2019 reached the highest dollar total to date. Adjusted for inflation, total giving reached the second highest level on record, just slightly below the all-time high dollar amount achieved in 2017. (Please see below for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers for each philanthropic source and sector.)

Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

“The solid growth of giving in 2019 brought total giving close to the record level set in 2017, which means that the past three years are the three highest years on record. Clearly, Americans prioritize generosity as a key part of their lives,” said Rick Dunham, chair of Giving USA Foundation and founder and CEO of Dunham + Company. “Giving increased substantially in 2019, ending the decade on a high note. While it’s too soon to tell what that will mean in the uncharted territory we all find ourselves in today, these estimates provide an important baseline for understanding where giving stood at the outset of the current crisis. As importantly, Giving USA‘s decades of data provide insight into how giving trends have been changing in recent years, offering context in these uncertain times.”

Positive economic conditions resulted in growth in giving from three out of the four sources. Economic growth also led to increases in giving to all but one of the nine major types of recipient charitable organizations. Six of nine of these charitable subsectors reached their highest ever totals in 2019, adjusted for inflation.

“In 2019, the growth in total giving was driven by an increase in giving by individuals, which remains by far the biggest source of giving. Interestingly, in recent years we’ve seen a consistent and growing trend in giving by foundations comprising a larger share of total giving than it did 15 years ago,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “This change may reflect larger trends such as in the distribution of wealth and in asset growth across a decade of stock market expansion.”

The overall U.S. economy was relatively strong in 2019, lifted by the robust performance of many of the economic factors that affect giving, such as a 28.9% increase in the S&P 500 and 4.1% growth in the GDP, both in current dollars. Giving by individuals and giving by corporations were buoyed by the growth in the stock market. Giving by foundations also grew, but at a slightly lower rate.

“Donors’ giving patterns evolve in response to changes in economic and social forces. In 2019, we saw solid, broad-based growth in almost all aspects of charitable giving, and especially in giving by individuals due to strong growth in the S&P 500 and personal income,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “While giving trends vary by donors’ income and wealth, since the Great Recession, we have seen giving become more concentrated toward the top end of the income and wealth spectrum. We will continue to monitor how current events affect giving patterns.”

Highlights and Numbers for 2019 Charitable Giving by Source

  •  Giving by individuals totaled an estimated $309.66 billion, rising 4.7% in 2019 (an increase of 2.8%, adjusted for inflation). Giving by individuals achieved the second-highest total dollar amount on record, adjusted for inflation, and was less than 70% of total giving for only the second time ever.
  •  Giving by foundations increased 2.5%, to an estimated $75.69 billion in 2019 (a flat growth rate of 0.7%, adjusted for inflation), reaching its highest-ever dollar amount. Giving by foundations has grown in nine of the last 10 years, and represented 17% of total giving for the second year in a row, the largest share on record. Data on giving by foundations are provided by Candid.
  • = Giving by bequest was an estimated $43.21 billion in 2019, and was essentially flat with a growth rate of 0.2% from 2018 (a decline of 1.6%, adjusted for inflation). Giving by bequest often fluctuates substantially from year to year.
  •  Giving by corporations is estimated to have increased by 13.4% in 2019, totaling $21.09 billion (an increase of 11.4%, adjusted for inflation). This significant growth is indicative of this type of giving, which is highly responsive to changes in corporate pre-tax profits and GDP, and its year-over-year trend lines tend to be more turbulent as a result.

“It is encouraging to see that not only did America’s corporate and foundation contributions increase, but also that its citizens continue to account for the substantial majority of giving,” said Ted Grossnickle, chair of The Giving Institute, and senior consultant and founder of Johnson, Grossnickle + Associates.

“In 2019, giving to nearly all of the subsectors grew, reflecting the wide interests and causes that Americans care about,” said Laura MacDonald, vice-chair of Giving USA Foundation and founder of Benefactor Group. “With the growth in giving from donor-advised funds, planned giving programs, and the evolution to online giving platforms and giving days, there are more varied opportunities than there were 10 years ago for nonprofits to engage with current and prospective donors.”

Highlights and Numbers for 2019 Charitable Giving to Recipients

  •  Giving to religion increased 2.3% between 2018 and 2019, with an estimated $128.17 billion in contributions. Adjusted for inflation, giving to religion was essentially flat, increasing 0.5% in 2019.
  •  Giving to education is estimated to have increased 12.1%, to $64.11 billion. Adjusted for inflation, giving to education organizations increased 10.1%.
  •  Giving to human services increased by an estimated 5.0% in 2019, totaling $55.99 billion. Adjusted for inflation, giving to human services organizations increased by 3.1%.
  •  Giving to foundations is estimated to have increased by 2.5% in 2019, to $53.51 billion. Adjusted for inflation, giving to foundations was essentially flat, increasing 0.6%.
  •  Giving to health organizations is estimated to have increased by 6.8% to $41.46 billion, an increase of 4.9%, adjusted for inflation.
  •  Giving to public-society benefit organizations increased an estimated 13.1%, to $37.16 billion. Adjusted for inflation, giving to public-society benefit organizations grew 11.1%.
  • = Giving to international affairs is estimated to be $28.89 billion in 2019, staying relatively flat compared to 2018 with a decline of 0.4%. Adjusted for inflation, giving to international affairs organizations declined 2.2%, after two strong years of growth.
  •  Giving to arts, culture, and humanities is estimated to have increased 12.6% to $21.64 billion. Adjusted for inflation, giving to the arts, culture, and humanities subsector increased 10.6%.
  •  Giving to to environment and animal organizations is estimated to have increased 11.3%, to $14.16 billion. Adjusted for inflation, giving to the environment/animals subsector increased 9.4% percent. This marks the category’s sixth consecutive year of growth.

“Giving to education, to arts, culture and humanities organizations, to public-society benefit organizations, and environment and animal organizations all saw double-digit growth in 2019, even when adjusted for inflation,” said Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., executive associate dean for academic programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “The 2019 results for recipient organizations are in line with the trends we have seen over time. Generally speaking, when there is broad-based economic growth, it is reflected in increased giving to all of the various subsectors; however, giving to religion is usually the least affected by economic shifts.”

Giving to individuals, which is 2% of total giving, is estimated to have increased 2.2% (0.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars) in 2019, to $10.11 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 -$5.54 billion in 2019. This amount can be considered the difference between giving by source and recipient subsector in a particular year. It includes the difference between itemized deductions by individuals (and 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.


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