Sunday, March 1, 2015

We Love Giving: All about charity and philanthropy in the U.S.A.

There’s no doubt that the United States is one of the most compassionate and giving countries in the world, and the data about the size and scope of our charitable sector backs that up. For instance, did you know that the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries in the world that allow tax donations for charitable contributions? So in order to explore and encourage our national dedication to philanthropy, we found the answers to 10 important questions about charity and giving in the U.S.:

1. How prevalent is charitable giving?
Together, Americans gave $335.17 billion in 2013, an amazing sum. While it’s estimated that 2/3 of people in the U.S. give to charity every year, that adds up to an impressive 95.4% of households that give to charity. Our citizens on average give about 3% of their incomes to charities every year, and giving is so prevalent that it accounted for 2% of our country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2013.

Non-profit organizations, like charities, congregations, foundations, and other civic entities take in approximately $1.5 trillion in revenue per year, though of course almost as much goes out in expenses and operational costs.
And in case you were wondering, Warren Buffet is the most generous giver in the U.S., a designation he earned when he donated $31 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates, of course, are some of the biggest philanthropists in the U.S., too.

2. What organizations do we give to?
Every year, religious organizations are by far the largest recipient of our charitable contributions. As of 2013, this was the breakdown:

31% Religious organizations
16% Universities and educational foundations and charities.
12% Human Services.
11% Grant making foundations.

As you can see, making a donation at church, like tithing, or sending in a check to your alma mater are some of the most popular ways to donate money.

In fact, as of 2013 the biggest increase in giving occurred with donations to the education sector, which was up 8.9% from the previous year.

3. How much do we give every year?
On average, we give $1,000 per person in the United States, though of course that includes the people who don’t give. Similarly, the average annual household contribution is $2,974.

4. How big is the charity and nonprofit sector?
In 2013, there were approximately 1,429,801 tax-exempt organizations in the United States.

Those include:
966,599 public charities
96,584 private foundations
366,618 other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.
321,839 congregations in the United States.

Charities don’t just collect funds to help people; they actually provide jobs for a surprising number of our citizens. In fact, 13 million people are employed by charities every year. The salaries and wages they make account for about 10% of the total in the economy! To put it in perspective, that’s twice the share that goes to national defense.

5. How much do corporations give compared to individuals?
While individuals are incredibly generous, don’t forget that corporations make significant philanthropic contributions every year.

Here is the breakdown of giving, as of 2013:
72% Individuals giving to charity, which accounted for $241.32 billion
15% Foundations making contributions, adding up to $5028 billion.
8% Bequests, which came to $26.81 billion.
5% Corporations, who donated $16.76 billion.

6. What are some recent trends in charity?
Charitable giving hit a modern-ear high in 2005 as the economy and real estate sector boomed. But as wealth declined, unemployment grew, and the economy tightened during the Great Recession from 2008-2011, the amount of charitable donations also declined, understandably. But since 2011, giving is back on the rise, increasing steadily every year. The 2013 statistics reflect a 4.4% increase from 2011, though we are still not at 2005’s peak yet.

Some other interesting trends speak to the correlation between the health of the economy and giving. Economists estimate that every time the Standard and Poor’s 500 stock index drops 100 points, charitable giving declines by a total of $1.85 billion. Whether up or down, the movement of the stock market usually paces charitable giving, 2 to 1.

7. Are charities online?
The advent of the internet, social media, crowd funding sites, and payment processing sites like PayPal and Bitcoin have exponentially increased the instances of online donations. Utilizing social media and videos on sites like YouTube have also helped spread the word about causes, as we saw with recent phenomenon of the Ice Bucket Challenge and others.

 In fact, as of 2013, the largest charitable organizations in the U.S. reported a 13% increase in online donations. 25 of these charities received more than $10 million each in online donations in 2013.

Charitable giving grew by 13.5% just in 2013, with smaller nonprofits and faith-based nonprofits receiving the biggest increases.

8. Which states are the most generous?
The top 10 most generous states are:
1. Utah: 6.6 percent giving rate
2. Mississippi: 5.0 percent
3. Alabama: 4.8 percent
4. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
5. Georgia: 4.2 percent
6. South Carolina: 4.1 percent
7. Idaho: 4.0 percent
8. Oklahoma: 3.9 percent
9. Arkansas: 3.9 percent
10. North Carolina: 3.6 percent
Interestingly enough, some relatively prosperous and well-educated states, like New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, etc. are some of the lowest for charitable giving. Though it’s speculated that the states in the top 10 are largely there because they are very religious and make contributions at church, while Northeastern states tend to be more secular. There is also a correlation between a state’s wealth and giving, with West Virginia giving the least per-person in donations

9. What about individuals volunteering?
It’s wonderful that the majority of Americans give money to charity, but don’t discount the positive impact of people who give their time, energy, knowledge, and skills every year. In 2013, 64.5 million adults volunteered 7.9 billion hours of service, worth an estimated value of $175 billion, data that should make us proud. More than 25% of Americans over 16 years old volunteered in the last 4 years. The good news is that volunteering stays pretty steady every year, even through the recession and economic turmoil.

Volunteers are most likely to help out with these activities:       
25.7% Fundraising or selling other items to raise money.
23.8% Food collection or distribution.
19.8% General labor or transportation.
17.9% Tutoring or teaching.

Volunteers most frequently help out with religious organizations (34.2%), educational organizations (26.5%), social services (14.4%), or health organizations (8%).
10. What time of the year is best for giving?
One point to note is that giving is extremely imbalanced toward the end of the year, so much so that charities call the months of October through January 1 as “The Giving Season.” There are several reasons for this, including the spirit of giving in Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the winter holidays, as well as the necessity to make donations for tax purposes before the end of the calendar year.  One area of improvement we can work on together is giving and volunteering more consistently throughout the year, as the need remains about the same no matter what month it is.


Do you have a favorite charity? Do you volunteer? Is there a cause near and dear to your heart? We’d love to hear about your philanthropic experiences, and thank you for your continued generosity! 


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