Giving USA: Americans Donated an Estimated $358.38 Billion to Charity in 2014; Highest Total in Report’s 60-year History

Courtesy Giving USA
Courtesy Giving USA

Six of the nine categories saw donations reach record highs last year when adjusted for inflation: religion, education, human services, health, arts/culture/humanities and environment/animals.

Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014, surpassing the peak last seen before the Great Recession, according to the 60th anniversary edition of Giving USA released today. That total slightly exceeded the benchmark year of 2007, when giving hit an estimated inflation-adjusted total of $355.17 billion.

The 2014 total jumped 7.1 percent in current dollars and 5.4 percent when inflation-adjusted over the revised estimate of $339.94 billion that Americans donated in 2013, according to Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

In addition, 2014 marked the fifth year in a row where giving went up; the average annual increase was 5.5 percent in current dollars (3.4 percent when inflation-adjusted).

All four sources that comprise total giving – individuals (72 percent of the total); corporations (5 percent); foundations (15 percent); and bequests (8 percent) – upped their 2014 donations to America’s 1-million-plus charities, says the report, which is the longest-running and most comprehensive of its kind in America. Giving USA is published by Giving USA Foundation, which was established by The Giving Institute to advance philanthropy through research and education. The report is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

2014 Charitable Giving by Source:

  • Individual giving, $258.51 billion, increased 5.7 percent in current dollars (and 4.0 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.
  • Foundation giving, $53.97 billion, was 8.2 percent higher than 2013 (the increase was 6.5 percent when inflation-adjusted).
  • Bequest giving, $28.13 billion, increased 15.5 percent (13.6 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013.
  • Corporate giving, $17.77 billion, increased 13.7 percent (11.9 percent when inflation-adjusted) over 2013 giving.

Observations about 2014 giving:

  • Large gifts – $200 million or more – made large impact
  • The 5.7 percent more that individuals donated in 2014 over 2013 accounted for 58 percent of last year’s total growth in giving.
  • Not only did total giving by foundations grow 8.2 percent in 2014, gifts from all three types – community, independent and operating – also went up. The annual changes in this category are influenced most by grants from independent foundations; their 2014 gifts were 7.8 percent higher than in 2013 and accounted for 74 percent of the category’s total.

2014 Charitable Giving to Recipients

The flip side of where charitable donations come from, of course, is where those gifts go. Giving USA’s research covers what happens within nine different categories of charities; here’s what 2014 looked like for each:

  • Religion – at $114.90 billion, 2014 giving increased 2.5 percent in current dollars, and a modest 0.9 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • Education – giving increased to $54.62 billion, 4.9 percent more in current dollars than the 2013 total. The inflation-adjusted increase was 3.2 percent.
  • Human Services – its $42.10 billion total was 3.6 percent higher, in current dollars, than in 2013. The inflation-adjusted increase was 1.9 percent.
  • Health – the $30.37 billion 2014 estimate was 5.5 percent higher, in current dollars, than the 2013 estimate. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 3.8 percent.
  • Arts/Culture/Humanities – at an estimated $17.23 billion, growth in current dollars was 9.2 percent in 2014. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 7.4 percent.
  • Environment/Animals – The $10.50 billion estimate for 2014 was up 7.0 percent in current dollars, and 5.3 percent when adjusted for inflation, over 2013 giving.
  • Public-Society Benefit – the $26.29 billion estimate for 2014 increased 5.1 percent in current dollars over 2013. When adjusted for inflation, the increase was 3.4 percent.
  • Foundations – at an estimated $41.62 billion in 2014, giving grew 1.8 percent in current dollars and 0.1 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • International Affairs – the $15.10 billion estimate for 2014 decreased 2.0 percent, in current dollars, from 2013. The drop was 3.6 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • In addition to the above, 2 percent of 2014’s total – $6.42 billion – went to individuals, largely through in-kind donations of medicine via patient assistance programs.

When it comes to international affairs, “donors appear to be increasing their attention to domestic causes in recent years,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Additionally, giving to international affairs in 2014 may have been affected by the fact that there was not a major international natural disaster on the scale that we have seen in some recent years, which tends to influence giving to this category.

Further observations about giving to recipients:

Giving to religion’s decline over time as a share of the total reflects that fewer Americans currently identify with a religion, attend worship services or give to houses of worship. These effects have been noted among the Baby Boomer generation; younger age groups appear to be following the same path.

Human services giving has increased annually since 2006, when adjusted for inflation. While growth has been modest in recent years, this category, which provides essential services to low-income households, youth and communities, continues to be of central importance to Americans when it comes to charitable donation decisions.

Giving in two categories – arts/culture/humanities and environment/animals – saw the fastest growth last year among the nine; in addition, neither has seen a decline (in current dollars) since the end of the recession.

Giving to education continues to be strong, and to higher education in particular. Included in its 2014 total are several multi-million dollar gifts, including two of more than $100 million. The latter supported medical research on university campuses.