Making A Difference: The World of Giving - US Charitable Giving Increases for the Fourth Year in a Row!

Philanthropy and charitable donations are back! Americans once again gave more in 2013 than in the previous year. As Americans, we supported causes we cared about with gifts both big and small.
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Philanthropy and charitable donations are back! Americans once again gave more in 2013 than in the previous year. As Americans, we supported causes we cared about with gifts both big and small. Indeed, giving is returning to the pre-recession levels seen in 2007, which was the height of philanthropic contributions.

Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, released their annual report on philanthropy in the United States (a survey done annually for the past 59 years) today, and the news for 2013 is good throughout the nonprofit sector.

For the calendar year 2013, the just-released numbers indicate that contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations, and bequests totaled $335.17 billion.

Americans continue to be seen as the most generous people in the world. Did you know that giving by INDIVIDUALS - people like you and me - account for more than 80% of all donations made in 2013 (including bequests)? And this is not unique to last year, but has been the trend for many years, even throughout the recent economic recession.

Some of you reading this will ask how you can make a difference, thinking that only the wealthy and ultra-wealthy are capable and willing to make gifts to charity. I counter this idea, because past surveys indicate that half of the donations made annually are from individuals with household incomes under $100,000. I have frequently shared and reminded people that Americans, even in tough times, continue to give - neighbors still help neighbors, and friends and family still look out for each other, all believing they can and should be Making a Difference®. This country is full of people just like you and me who have the opportunity to change things via the nonprofit sector. And YOU are able to make the change happen with the issues and causes you care most about by making a donation of $10, $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 or much more.

According to the Report, the single largest reason for the uptick in giving in 2013 was the increase in donations made by individuals, who gave $9.69 billion more in 2013 than in 2012. In all sectors - foundations, bequests, and individuals - charitable giving increased. The sector of corporate contributions was the only area to experience a decline.

There are many choices for anyone wanting to make a difference. Currently, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US, with the IRS receiving an average of 100 applications a day from new corporations applying for a nonprofit tax exempt status. The choices of where to make your donation are truly endless. To make the selection a bit easier, I suggest reviewing the sectors to determine where you would like to make a difference. To start the process, check out how they did last year. In 2013, here are the trends in charitable donations:
  • Individuals still represent the largest amount of contributions with 72% or240.60 billion donated - up by 4.2%
  • Bequests were up 8.7% accounting for 8% of the total amount donated in 2013 or27.73 billion
  • Foundation donations accounted for 15% or48.96 billion of the total amount donated and were up by 5.7%
  • Corporate giving (donations by corporations and corporate foundations) was down by almost 2% this year after having the largest increase of any sector in 2012; donations totaled17.88 billion, representing 5% of all contributions made in 2013

... and where is that money is going? Here are the subsectors that saw increases reaching, and in some cases surpassing, their all-time high giving levels since the recession (when adjusted for inflation):

  • Education again saw increases for the third year by 8.9% totaling 16% of all gifts or52.07 billion; this sector still ranks far behind the religious sector, which received 31% of all donations (or105.53 billion) although for the second year, religious giving remained the same as the previous year
  • Human Services again was up in donations by 2.2% or41.51 billion; this subsector accounted for 12% of donations and this is without a national or international natural disaster the size of recent hurricanes (think Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and their relief efforts)
  • Health donations also increased for the third year in a row, expanding by 6.0% or31.86 billion
  • Environment/Animals received9.72 billion, an increase of 7.5%

The following subsectors also saw increases in donations received:

  • Arts, Cultural, and the Humanities saw an increase in donations of 7.8% for a total of16.66 billion
  • The Public Society Benefit Sector, as well as donations to Individuals, both saw increases, too. As an FYI, the majority of the donations to individuals are in-kind gifts of medications to patients made through the Patient Assistance Program of pharmaceutical companies' operating foundations
These two subsectors saw decreases in donations:
  • Giving to Foundations was down by 15.5% to35.74 billion
  • Giving to International Affairs saw a decrease of 6.7%, with a total of14.93 billion directed to this sector

So what does this all mean for you? Do your donations matter? Can you really make a difference?

The answer is yes and here are five (5) tips to consider for making your charitable donations this year that will ensure you are Making A Difference®:

  • What do you care about in your world? Think about what stirs your soul. Develop a plan to support organizations working for change in those areas.
  • Think locally. Your community has needs which many nonprofit organizations are handling. Discover who is working in what area by searching online, reading the newspaper, watching a newscast or asking your neighbors, family members or friends.
  • Establish a charitable budget annually. This will ensure you can support your favorite causes without straining your overall budget. You can even set up a donation plan so your gift happens automatically on a monthly or quarterly basis via your bank debit card or credit card.
  • Teach the next generation about the importance of philanthropy. Develop in your children the habit of helping others by dedicating part of their allowance or money they make/receive for making donations; research with them where it can go at the end of the year (and if you match this gift it can go twice as far)!
  • Do your estate plan and include a charitable component. Besides your house of worship and alma mater, what entity impacted your life? Were you a Boy Scout? Girl Scout? Did you go to the local YMCA? Boys and Girls Club?
Think about what impacted you when you were young and then include that organization in your estate plan. The 2013 numbers show that charitable giving is coming back. Now what will you do this year to keep it moving in the right direction? Be a part of the American legacy - be known as a generous American. Do something today that will make a difference!

To learn more about the study on 2013 giving, please visit:

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