Private Wealth Matters

The Numbers are Out – Giving is Up – Hallelujah!

The Numbers are Out – Giving is Up – Hallelujah!

The Giving USA Foundation, whose stated mission is “advancing the research, education, and public understanding of philanthropy,” just published the 2014 version of its study Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Depending on your point of view, the glass is either half empty or half full.glass_half_full_empty_1600_clr_5473
Here are some interesting factoids gleaned from the report:

  • Total charitable giving during 2013 in the United States is estimated to be up by 4.4% year over year to $335.17 billion. That’s the good news. The bad news is, although giving is up 12.9% since the Great Recession ended in 2009, it will take another year or two at current, inflation-adjusted rates to reach the pre-recession high of $349.5 billion attained in 2007.
  • Year over year, individual giving increased 4.2%, foundation giving increased 5.7%, and gifts by bequest increased 8.7%. The soul sector showing a decrease was corporate giving, down 1.9%. Conclusions drawn: individuals are becoming more confident about giving to the causes they care about as their financial situations continue to improve. The mirror image applies to corporate giving – its decline was largely influenced by slow growth in corporate pre-tax profits.
  • Winning sectors in the charitable world include education, public-society benefit, arts, environment/animal, and health organizations, all up on average from 6% to 8.9%.
  • Losing sectors include religious organizations, due to declining affiliation and service attendance and international affairs, due to fewer disaster-relief contributions compared with prior years.   (Note that this classification excludes religious-oriented charitable organizations that are characterized within other subsectors.)
  • Finally, my favorite statistic and one of the more vexing ones: Giving USA notes that “over the last couple of decades, total charitable giving comprised about 2% of GDP. However, in the last decade, total charitable giving accounted for 3.5% of the overall growth in GDP.” Slice and dice the numbers anyway you want, 2% of GDP over the long term is pretty modest. Granted, according to the World Giving Index, the US was considered the most generous nation in 2013 (up from fifth place in 2012), but still……one would expect more, especially in a society that is supposedly so influenced by the major religious traditions, all of which emphasize the core value of charitable giving.

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