Saturday, June 28, 2008

Charities Have A Big Year

(previously published here at the

Americans gave over $300 billion to charities and nonprofits in the year 2007, according to a study released yesterday, breaking the previous year's total while maintaining the basic overall rate despite economic concerns that included a fallen housing market, struggling credit, high oil and food prices and the ongoing cost of war.

The estimated donation total of $306.39 billion for 2007 included contributions from individuals (at 74.8 percent of the total), foundations (at 12.6 percent), bequests (at 7.6 percent) and corporations (at 5.1 percent), all represented in the annual survey by the Giving USA Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization that researches and publishes data and trends about charitable giving. The rate of charitable giving is reported to have had a strong start at the beginning of the year, before falling back as stock market struggles and housing and credit crisis hit. Data was culled from government sources such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Katrina Emergency Task Relief Act, as well as from panel surveys by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University of over 7,800 households about their charitable giving practices.

The study shows that although a record breaker, this year's amount remained at 2.2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) - the same level as in 2006, as well as from 2002 to 2004 - and after adjusting for inflation, was only a 1-percent increase over 2006's $294.91 billion.

Still, this made for about an 88 -percent increase from a decade earlier, before individual giving, religious and foundation charitable donations and corporate profits all increased. The many natural disasters around the world that occurred in the last several years also made for a boost in contributions towards relief aid funds.

The high level of individual household giving has primarily been shown through itemized charitable deductions on tax returns for a range of income levels. About 51 percent of this individual giving was from the 10 percent of U.S. households in the highest income groups, while 49 percent came from "ordinary-income donors."

In Giving USA's initial study report, the 2007 pool of charitable contributions were made to a variety of sectors, including religious congregations, which received $102.32 billion (about a third of all donations), educational organizations ($43.32 billion; a 6.4 percent increase), human-services charities ($29.64 billion, an 8.4 percent increase), and health organizations ($23.15 billion, a 5.4 percent increase).

Arts, culture and humanities organizations, as well as international affairs organizations, received an increase in charitable contributions.

The only contribution pool to have received lower levels of giving were private foundations, which fell 9.4 percent to $27.73 billion since 2006.

Heather Chin can be reached at

©The Evening Bulletin 2008

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