Few people realize how large charities have become, how many vital services they provide, and how much funding flows through them each year. Without charities and non-profits, America would simply not be able to operate. Their operations are so big that during 2011, total giving was more than $298 billion.
How big is the sector?
- Total giving to charitable organizations was $298.42 billion in 2011 (about 2% of GDP). This is an increase of 4% from 2010.
- As in previous years, the majority of that giving came from individuals. Specifically, individuals gave $217.79 billion (73%) representing a 3.9% increase over 2010.
- Giving by bequest was $24.41 billion (up 12.2%), foundations gave $41.67 billion (up 1.8%), and corporations donated $14.55 billion (no change from 2010).
- Giving by individuals (which includes bequests and family foundations) is critically important as it represents nearly 9 out of every 10 dollars donated.
- Corporate giving accounts for just 5% of the total giving in 2011.
- 32% of all donations, or $95.88 billion, went to religious organizations (down 1.7%). Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship. The next largest sector was education with $38.87 billion (up 4%).
- Donations were up to health charities (2.7%), to public benefit charities (4%), to arts, culture, humanities charities (4.1%), to International charities (7.6%), to human services charities (2.5%), to environmental and animal charities (4.6%).
- Donations to foundations were down (6.1%).
- Historically, religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations. While this is still true in 2011, the percentage dropped by 2% from 2010.
- Revised Giving USA data shows that total giving has grown in current dollars in every year since 1971 except for 1987, 2008 and 2009. The average rate of change in total giving in current dollars since 1971 is 6.8%. However, when adjusting for inflation, total giving has declined 9 times since 1971 (typically on our close to recessionary years).
- Total giving in 2011 was 11% below giving in 2007, before the charitable sector felt the effects of the recession.
All data property of Giving USA 2012, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.