2011 Giving Estimated at $298.42B

Giving in the United States reached an estimated $298.42 billion during 2011, an increase of roughly 4 percent from 2010. Giving by individuals led the way, as usual, at 73 percent or $217.79 billion.

The smallest part of the giving pie came from those screaming for attention the loudest, American corporations. Corporate largess was just 5 percent of all giving at $14.55 billion. The 2011 estimate, detailed in Giving USA’s 57th consecutive annual report, represents growth of 4 percent in current dollars and 0.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University prepares the estimates in Giving USA. Estimates are based on econometric models using tax data, government estimates for economic indicators and information from other research institutions. Data sources include the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Foundation Center, Independent Sector, Council for Aid to Education, National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, and National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

Giving to religion and human services were the big winners, although religion continues to decline in terms of percentage of the overall giving. The estimates calculate total giving by approximately 117 million households across America, approximately 12.4 million corporations that claim charitable deductions, an estimated 99,000 estates, and roughly 76,000 foundations.

Individual giving as a percentage of disposable personal income was 1.9 percent, the same as in 2010 and down from the 2.4 percent in 2005. It has been 1.9 percent 11 times during the past 40 years. The low was 1.7 percent in 1995.

“The good news for charities is that actual growth in inflation adjusted dollars is 1 percent. The not good news is it comes at a time when there is still significant demand and unmet need,” said Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., executive director, The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University in Indianapolis, Ind. “What’s exacerbating is the downward draft from government spending, the downward draft of endowment earnings.”

Some of the data points for the GivingUSA study include:

  • Gifts from estates were an estimated $24.41 billion in 2011, a 12.2 percent increase compared to 2010 and an 8.8 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. Giving by bequest represented 8 percent of total giving.
  • Giving by grant-making by private, community and operating foundations increased 1.8 percent in 2011, a decline of 1.3 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, to $41.67 billion. Giving by foundations represented 14 percent of total giving.
  • The estimated $14.55 billion in donations by corporations and their foundations was a 0.1 percent decline in current dollars, or a 3.1 percent decline as measured by inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Estimated giving to religious organizations — $95.88 billion in 2011 — retained its traditional spot as the largest type of recipient at 32 percent of total giving. It was one of only two subsectors to experience a decline.
  • Measured in current dollars, that decline was 1.7 percent; the inflation-adjusted decrease amounted to 4.7 percent. The other subsector was giving to foundations, down 6.1 percent during 2011 to $25.83 billion.

Giving to components of the sector was:

  • Religion, $95.88 billion or 32 percent;
  • Education, $38.87 billion or 13 percent;
  • Human Services, $35.39 billion or 12 percent;
  • Foundations, $25.83 billion or 9 percent;
  • Health, $24.75 billion or 8 percent;
  • International Affairs, $22.68 billion or 8 percent;
  • Public-Benefit Society, $21.37 billion or 7 percent;
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities, $13.12 billion or 4 percent;
  • Environment/animals, $7.81 billion or 3 percent;
  • Individuals, $3.75 billion or 1 percent;
  • Unallocated giving was $8.97 billion or 3 percent.

The subsectors

At $95.88 billion in 2011, religion retained its spot as the largest type of recipient at 32 percent of the total. But, measured in current dollars it was a decline of 1.7 percent and an inflation-adjusted decrease of 4.7 percent.

“Viewed another way, giving to religion, along with membership in certain mainline Protestant denominations, is declining, while the American population grows, on average, 1.0 percent every year,” said Thomas W. Mesaros, CFRE, Chair, The Giving Institute and president and CEO, The Alford Group. “It might be too soon to call the drops in this particular category a trend, but I think they bear watching – and not just by church-affiliated organizations. Any charity that is heavily dependent on members for the majority of its annual budget needs to be cognizant of issues that could affect growth, commitment and donations.”

According to Rooney, giving often equates with church attendance. “We have seen every generation going back to the Great Depression attends at a lesser rate than parents and grandparents,” said Rooney “If they are not attending they are not giving or giving as much.”

Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, sees a progression from the challenges of 2008 and 2009 and the modest improvement in 2010. “We’re beginning to see solid work being done and some new growth against where we hit the recession,” he said.

Jewish federations have raised about $920 million for their annual campaigns during the fiscal year that started last July, which is running flat compared to the previous year, with a chance that they might end on the positive side. “We’re holding our own,” said Silverman.

Endowment numbers have seen an increase in the high single digits, Silverman said, adding that total endowments held by federations totaled about $13 billion. Online fundraising continues to be a growth vehicle in the area of small gifts, while major gifts have remained consistent and could be up by as much as 2 percent, he said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about what’s going on right now, in what we’re seeing,” said Silverman.

Giving to international affairs increased 7.6 percent (4.4 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars) to $22.68 billion. International affairs organizations received 8 percent of charitable donations in 2011.

Since 1987, inflation-adjusted giving to the international subsector has grown much faster than the 4.4 percent average annual rate of inflation, experiencing an average annual growth of 9.4 percent, said Rooney.

The second largest subsector of giving was education at $38.87 billion in estimated donations for 2011. That is a 4 percent increase in current dollars compared to 2010. The inflation-adjusted increase was essentially flat at 0.9 percent. Educational organizations received 13 percent of charitable donations in 2011.

Health organizations saw an estimated increase of 2.7 percent (0.4 percent decline when measured by inflation-adjusted dollars) to $24.75 billion. Health organizations received 8 percent of charitable donations in 2011.

Suzie Upton, chief development officer at the American Heart Association (AHA), sees the climate for giving has improved. “When people feel comfortable with their personal financial situations, they feel more comfortable opening their pocketbooks for charitable giving,” she said. “They’re not really gung-ho, but they feel like they can support some organizations.” In the past, donors may have supported as many as 10 organizations but now give to three or four. “It’s our job to be one of those top three or four organizations, and I think our mission resonates with donors,” said Upton.

Giving to arts, culture and humanities had an estimated increase of 4.1 percent in 2011, a slim 1 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. The estimated total for these types of charities was $13.12 billion. Arts, culture and humanities organizations received 4 percent of charitable donations in 2011.

Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children’s Museum of Richmond in Richmond, Va., estimated that contributions make up about 20 percent of revenues, compared to 40 percent almost a decade ago.

“We’ve really increased our attendance at museum and opened a second location, so our profile in the community has been pretty high during the recession. More people have turned to us because we are a lower-cost activity for families. I think that’s why we haven’t seen a decrease,” Coltrane said.

With all of the fuss being made about corporate involvement in philanthropy – and all of the press releases issued – corporate America still provided very little cash to the nonprofit sector. Estimated donations by corporations and their foundations in 2011 were $14.55 billion, a 0.1 percent decline in current dollars, or a 3.1 percent decline as measured by inflation-adjusted dollars. Giving by corporations represented 5 percent of total giving.

By comparison, the recent initial public offering of stock in Facebook netted $16 billion. And, according to the Federal Reserve, at the end of March, nonfinancial corporations had $1.74 trillion in liquid assets, $12.6 billion more than at the end of the year.

Rooney said the best indicators for corporate giving are gross domestic product and changes in marginal tax rates. “Corporations, historically philanthropic budgets are based on some measure of last year’s profitability,” said Rooney.


For an in-depth look at these numbers, see the upcoming July 1, 2012 issue of The NonProfit Times.