U.S. charitable contributions last year rang up to $316.2 billion or about the equivalent of Denmark’s gross domestic product.
According to an annual report released this week by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, individual contributions chipped in the largest chunk, $229 billion, or 72 percent of the total, while corporations gave the least, $18 billion, or 6 percent. The rest was made up of donations from foundations and bequests.
“Positive trends, such as the 13.4 percent increase in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index between 2011 and 2012, the slight rise in home values, and overall lower unemployment rates and fuel costs, were combined with budget concerns and tax reform discussions,” said the study released Tuesday by Giving USA.
Nearly one-third of the total went to religious organizations, $102 billion, mostly to houses of worship, but the report says that year-over-year rate is flat and Eileen Heisman, CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust, told CNN that religious donations have seen a “precipitous drop” from the past when church-based charity topped 60 percent of the total. Church charity often goes to local relief efforts, such as weather-related emergencies.
Giving to education causes made up the largest nonreligious charity, $41 billion, mostly to four-year higher education institutions. Human services came in a close third at $40 billion while donations to foundations made up $30 billion. Foundations themselves gave $46 billion last year, which suggests some double-counting of charitable giving (donations to and from foundations).
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Of course what nonprofits do with this charity is another matter. A recent report from the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting listed 50 of America’s “Worst Charities” based on how much they paid solicitors. Eighteen of the 50 organizations on the list are focused on providing support to fireman, police or veterans. Nine groups on the list are cancer-oriented.