Charitable Donations Grew in 2012, But Slowly

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In third straight year of gains, contributions reach $316.23 billion from American individuals, corporations and foundations.

Even with households across the country feeling continued financial pressure, Americans donated an estimated $316.23 billion to charitable causes in 2012. Modest overall gains in total contributions mirrored the nation’s recent economic trends, Giving USA Foundation™ and its research partner, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, announced last week. 

The 3.5 percent year-over-year growth rate (1.5 percent adjusted for inflation) in gifts from American individuals (both households and bequests from their estates), corporations and foundations matches the same figurative portrait of 2012’s economic indicators—some trends were positive, others were negative, but overall, there was growth. Federal tax policy shifts likely also played a role in giving decisions made last year.

The findings are contained in the 58th consecutive edition of Giving USA, the seminal annual report on charitable giving in America. “When you consider all the factors that go into determining how much we give to charity, modest growth makes sense and is actually encouraging,” said Gregg Carlson, chair of the Foundation, which publishes Giving USA. “Most households feel pressured at every economic corner, but the longstanding social contract between Americans and the nonprofits they believe in remains resilient and intact; many see giving as a core budget item. The amount devoted to that category might shift up or down with annual economic realities, but it doesn’t go away.”

  • Giving by individuals rose to $228.93 billion in 2012, an estimated 3.9 percent increase (1.9 percent adjusted for inflation). Income and wealth are key drivers of household giving, as is a sense of financial security. Giving by taxpayers who itemize their gifts represented 81 percent of the total donated by individuals in 2012
  • Giving by bequest decreased an estimated 7.0 percent in 2012 (8.9 percent adjusted for inflation) to $23.41 billion. Itemizing estates contributed 78 percent of the total, or $18.31 billion. Bequest giving tends to be volatile from year to year, as it is highly influenced by very large gifts from estates that closed during that year.

For more on this report, click here.

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