Charitable giving in the United States fell to an estimated $303.75 billion in 2009, a drop of 3.6 percent from a revised total of $315.08 billion in 2008, a new report from the Giving USA Foundation finds. Because the overall economy experienced slight price deflation in 2009, the year-over-year inflation-adjusted decline was 3.2 percent.
Researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the report, Giving USA 2010 (executive summary), found that individual giving was flat in 2009 when adjusted for inflation, down an estimated 0.4 percent in current dollars, to $227.41 billion, while bequests fell 23.9 percent (-23.6 percent adjusted for inflation), to $23.8 billion. In contrast, corporate giving rose 5.5 percent (5.9 percent adjusted for inflation), to $14.1 billion — an unexpected increase that brought corporate giving to within 1 percent of its pre-recession level. At the same time, according to the Foundation Center, private, community, and operating foundation giving fell to $38.44 billion, an 8.9 percent year-over-year decline (-8.6 percent adjusted for inflation), which, while significant, was a smaller decline than many had anticipated.
The report also found that the types of recipients which saw declines in giving in 2009 tended to be those more likely to receive gifts through capital campaigns, endowment gifts, and donations of art and property. Giving to foundations and education, arts and culture, and public-society benefit organizations, for instance, declined by 8 percent, 3.6 percent, 2.0 percent, and 4.6 percent, respectively. Health, human services, international aid, and environment/animal-related organizations, on the other hand, all saw increases. Once again, giving to religion comprised the largest share of all contributions, coming in at an estimated $100.95 billion, or 33 percent of total giving, a year-over-year decline of 0.7 percent.
While the drop in 2009 marks the first time since tracking began that estimated giving fell two years in a row, overall giving topped $300 billion for the third straight year. "Even in a time of enormous economic upheaval, such as we saw in 2009, Americans continued to be generous to charitable causes," said Giving USA Foundation chair Edith H. Falk. "While overall giving declined, many donors — including individuals and foundations — made special efforts in 2009 to respond to greater humanitarian needs."