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U.S. Charitable Donations Surpass $416 Billion, Report Finds

Churches and religious organizations were the recipients of 35% of charitable giving in 2013.

By Bisk on February 18, 2014
Report: Nonprofit Philanthropy Topped $416 Billion

Americans donated a record $416.6 billion to charitable causes in 2013, representing a 13% increase over the previous year, according to a new report by the Atlas of Giving. 

The Dallas, Texas-based organization said environmental groups, educational institutions and human services organizations were among the biggest recipients of the uptick in nonprofit philanthropy, which was driven largely by stock market gains.

“These conditions in the marketplace motivated many affluent donors to give – especially to universities and donor-advised funds,” Atlas of Giving CEO Rob Mitchell said in a January 2014 press release.

With a total of $143.1 billion, churches and other religious organizations continued to account for the largest portion of charitable donations, at 35% of total giving last year. Falling church rolls and declining attendance, however, are squeezing those organizations’ proportional share of overall giving – down from 37% in 2010, according to the Atlas of Giving report.

Education-related groups and projects received $68 billion in 2013, a nearly 16% jump over 2012.

Donations from individuals accounted for $310.8 billion last year, while foundations gave $57.8 billion and corporations contributed about $20 billion, the January report found.

The 2013 total marks the fourth straight year of rising charitable donations, according to the Atlas of Giving report. Since 2007, giving in the United States has increased more than 24%, from $334.7 billion.

Surpassing the $400 billion threshold is a “historic event that bolsters U.S. dominance of world philanthropy,” Mitchell said.

The Atlas of Giving report also found that:

  • High unemployment rates had a negative effect on charitable giving to religious organizations, which typically receive a large volume of small donations.
  • Controversy surrounding the federal Affordable Care Act hurt charitable giving to healthcare organizations and hospitals.
  • Wealthy donors are turning to donor-advised funds rather than family foundations to administer their charitable giving because the funds typically have fewer costs and management issues.

The Atlas of Giving projects continued growth in charitable giving in 2014, but only at the rate of 4%.

The organization says it measures charitable giving using algorithms that take into account various demographic and economic factors. However, its methods have been questioned in light of significant differences between its previous findings and those of the better-known Giving USA report.

The Giving USA report, which has been published annually for almost 60 years, is produced by The Giving Institute and Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Giving USA’s report for 2013 is expected to be released in summer 2014. Last year’s report estimated that Americans donated about $316 billion in 2012 – about $50 billion less than the Atlas of Giving’s estimate for that year.

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