Making a Difference: The World of Giving -- US Charitable Giving Increased in 2010

According to the report released today by Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, charitable giving by American individuals, corporations and foundations is estimated at $290.89 billion for 2010, an increase of 3.8 percent from 2009 estimates. According to Edith Falk, Chair of the Giving USA Foundation, "The $10.59 billion increase in the estimated total suggests that giving is beginning to recover as the economy slowly climbs out of the recession." Given there was a combined drop of 13% in giving this increase is good news!

Did you know that out of the $290 billion donated last year, 73% of all donations given last year were contributed by individuals, meaning people like you, me, our neighbors, our co-workers, etc.? Yes, individuals are very generous with charitable donations giving an estimated $211.77 billion which is 73% of all the contributions made in 2010. People are always amazed at this statistic because they assume it is corporations and foundations that give away the lion's share of the contributions. It should also be noted that this number has tracked in this range for individuals for years.

The remaining 27% of donations does come from the foundations, corporations and bequests. Foundations account for $41 billion or fourteen percent (14%) of all donations with $19.5 billion of that given by family foundations in 2010. Bequests account $22.83 billion or eight percent (8%) and corporations $15.20 billion or five percent (5%) of all donations last year.

What do all these numbers mean?

The United States, while slowly climbing out of the recession, is still home to the most generous people who care and remain committed to supporting nonprofit organizations and the philanthropic world. Individuals still give to the causes that are near and dear to their hearts, especially those that have made a difference in their life. One only has to think about a family member dying of a certain type of illness or a friend struggling with an issue to know that most of us respond with a strong willingness to help. On the other hand, corporations focus on nonprofit organizations and issues that align with their missions and values.

Corporations are becoming more and more strategic about their philanthropy with most wanting their investments to last only a few years. Finally, foundations have held steady throughout this recession but are not inclined to taking on new programs or funding new nonprofit organizations during these tough economic times.

Giving USA has reported U.S. charitable contributions since 1956. It looks at nine (9) subsectors, or types of charitable recipients, i.e., who we are giving to, when compiling its annual report.

The following areas remained steady with less than one percent change overall:

  • Giving to religion which always receives the largest percentage of dollars donated; this year it is at 35% of the total
  • Giving to human services organizations; it received 9% of the donations in 2010
  • Giving to environmental and animal organizations; it receives 2% of all donations

Those following subsectors showed modest increases of two to five percent:

  • Giving to education; it received 14% of all donations
  • Giving to foundations (i.e., family, private, etc.); it received 11% of all donations
  • Giving to health; it received 8% of all donations
  • Giving to public-society benefit organizations; it received 8% of all donations
  • Giving to arts, culture and humanities organizations; it received 5% of all donations

Surprisingly, the subsector showing a dramatic increase was giving to international affairs which rose an estimated 15.3 percent. But one has to remember that 2010 was the year of many international disasters including the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the terrifying floods in Pakistan and the large earthquake in Chile. These are only a few examples of when Americans rushed in to help others in need. This area received 5% of all donations in 2010.

So how can you contribute and make a difference in next year's totals and continue the legacy of Americans being generous even in difficult economic times? Here are five (5) tips on easy ways to plan your charitable activities or donate to a cause and Make A Difference (M.A.D.):

  • Develop and commit to your own style of philanthropy - whether you view it as a hand out (donating to a charity) or a hand up (donating to a cause to solve a problem) do something everyday to make a difference!
  • Consider estate planning now so that your wishes are known and plans are made to fulfill them; you can make a huge difference by simply taking the time to plan now for the future. Start by putting together your will and leaving a portion of your assets to your favorite charitable causes.
  • Contact your local community foundation to determine ways to support the needs of your community; community foundations are a great resource and know the areas of greatest need in your community.
  • Start now and create a charitable budget, making donations throughout the year, so that by the end of the year you will have given generously throughout the year, not simply from what is leftover at the end of December.
  • Tithe or give regularly to a religious organization or affiliation that aligns with your values.

Bonus Tips: Set aside extra dollars for those unexpected charitable requests that come from family members and friends throughout the year. Also remember that donations such as books to a library, clothing to a homeless or domestic abuse shelter, groceries to a food bank or food pantry, etc. make a difference, too, and with proper receipting can be tax deductible.

Commit to contributing or doing something everyday to help others. By doing this you will be making a difference (M.A.D.). Are you M.A.D. today?

For more information on the study, go to one of the following websites: