Charitable giving continued its upward trend in 2017, as an estimated $410.02 billion was given to charitable causes. For the third year in a row, total giving reached record levels. This increase and the overall size of charitable contributions is further testament to the integral role charities play in our society, a role which continues to grow.
How much do we give?
Total giving to charitable organizations was $410.02 billion in 2017 (2.1% of GDP). This is an increase of 5.2% in current dollars and 3.0% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2016.
Giving has increased in current dollars every year since 1977, with the exception of three years that saw declines: 1987, 2008 and 2009.
The average year-to-year change in total giving between 1977 and 2017 was an increase of $8.94 billion (in current dollars), making the current-dollar change in total giving between 2016 and 2017 much larger than the 40-year average.
Prior to the 40-year period 1977–2017, total giving was consistently at or above 2.0% of GDP. It fell below 2.0% throughout most of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Total giving as a percentage of GDP rose to 2.0% and above through most of the 2000s, but then dropped to 1.9% in the years 2009 to 2011. Total giving as a percentage of GDP was 2.1% for four of the five years, 2013–2017.
Who is giving?
As in previous years, the majority of that giving came from individuals. Specifically, individuals gave $286.65 billion, accounting for 70% of all giving and representing a 3.0% increase over 2016.
Giving by bequest increased by 2.3% to $35.70 billion (9% of all donations).
Foundations - which includes grants made by independent, community, and operating foundations - gave $66.9 billion (16% of all donations). This represents a 6% increase over the prior year.
Corporations grew by 8% to $20.77 billion (5% of all donations).
Historically, donations from individuals account for over two-thirds of all donations. If you add in gifts from bequests, then the category accounts for nearly 80% of all giving. In other words, the donating public, not big foundations or corporations, is responsible for the vast majority of annual donations.
Where do the donations go?
Giving to Education charities was up 6.2% to $58.9 billion (14% of all donations).
Donations to Human Services charities were up 5.1% to $50.06 billion (12% of all donations).
Foundations saw an increase of 6% to $45.89 billion (11% of all donations).
Health charities experienced an increase of 15.5% to $38.27 billion (9% of all donations).
Public-Society Benefit charities saw an increase of 7.8% to $29.59 billion (7% of all donations).
Giving to International charities decreased by 4.4% to $22.97 billion (6% of all donations).
Arts, Culture and Humanities saw an increase of 8.7% to $19.51 billion (5% of all donations).
Historically, Religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations. This remained true in 2016. With the 2.9% increase in donations this year, 31% of all donations, or $127.37 billion, went to Religious organizations. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship.
All data is the property of Giving USA 2018, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.