Giving USA 2018: Americans gave $410.02 billion to charity in 2017, crossing the $400 billion mark for the first time
Stock market, economic conditions helped drive solid growth in contributions across the board
Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017, released today.
Giving exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time, increasing 5.2 percent (3.0 percent adjusted for inflation) over the revised total of $389.64 contributed in 2016.
Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.
Giving from all four sources and giving to all but one of the major types of recipient organizations grew in 2017, driven by economic conditions. While policy developments may have played some role in charitable giving in 2017, most of the effects of the tax policy changes adopted in late December 2017 likely will affect giving in 2018 and beyond.
“Americans continue to give, and they continue to give generously,” says Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO of Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. “Even during a time of intensely different perspectives and ideology – especially on the political front – people are giving more as they have more resources available and they are giving to a wide-range of causes.”
The increase in giving in 2017 was generated in part by increases in the stock market, as evidenced by 19.4 percent growth in the S&P 500. Investment returns funded multiple very large gifts, most of which were given by individuals to their foundations, including two gifts of $1 billion or more.
In addition to the S&P 500, other economic factors, such as personal income and personal consumption, are associated with households’ long-term financial stability and have historically been correlated with giving by individuals. These factors also experienced strong growth in 2017.
The Numbers for 2017 Charitable Giving by Source
All four sources of giving – individuals (70 percent of the total), foundations (16 percent), bequests (9 percent) and corporations (5 percent) increased their 2017 donations over 2016, according to the report.
- Giving by individuals totaled an estimated $286.65 billion, rising 5.2 percent in 2017 (3.0 percent, adjusted for inflation). The single largest contributor to the increase in total charitable giving in 2017 was an increase of $14.47 billion in giving by individuals.
- Giving by foundations increased 6.0 percent, to an estimated $66.90 billion in 2017 (3.8 percent, adjusted for inflation). Grantmaking by community foundations rose 11.0 percent from 2016. Grantmaking by operating foundations and independent foundations also increased, at 6.2 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively. Giving by foundations has seen strong growth for the past seven years; its five-year annualized average growth rate of 7.6 percent far exceeds the 4.3 percent annualized average growth rate for total giving. Data on foundation giving are provided by the Foundation Center.
- Giving by bequest totaled an estimated $35.70 billion in 2017, increasing 2.3 percent from 2016 (0.2 percent, adjusted for inflation). Gifts from bequests tend to fluctuate year to year, largely due to very large gifts being made in some years and not in others.
- Giving by corporations is estimated to have increased by 8.0 percent in 2017, totaling $20.77 billion (5.7 percent, adjusted for inflation). Corporate giving includes cash and in-kind contributions made through corporate giving programs, as well as grants and gifts made by corporate foundations. Corporate foundation grantmaking is estimated to have totaled $6.09 billion in 2017, an increase of 4.5 percent (in current dollars) from 2016. Corporate giving was boosted by $405 million in contributions for relief related to natural and manmade disasters.
The Numbers for 2017 Gifts to Charitable Organizations
Giving USA’s research also examines what happens within nine different recipient categories of charities. In 2017, giving to eight of the nine major types of recipient organizations significantly increased in 2017. Giving to foundations experienced the largest gain of any subsector (an increase of 15.5 percent), far outpacing the growth in total giving. Arts/culture/humanities was the second-fastest growing subsector. Giving to international affairs decreased following six consecutive years of growth.
- Giving to religion increased 2.9 percent (0.7 percent adjusted for inflation) between 2016 and 2017, with an estimated $127.37 billion in contributions.
- Giving to education is estimated to have increased 6.2 percent (4.0 percent adjusted for inflation) between 2016 and 2017, to $58.90 billion.
- Giving to human services increased by an estimated 5.1 percent (2.9 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2017, totaling $50.06 billion.
- Giving to foundations is estimated to have increased by 15.5 percent (13.1 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2017, to $45.89 billion. This growth was driven by extraordinarily large gifts by major philanthropists, such as Michael and Susan Dell and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, to their foundations.
- Giving to health is estimated to have increased by 7.3 percent (5.1 percent adjusted for inflation) between 2016 and 2017, to $38.27 billion.
- Giving to public-society benefit organizations increased an estimated 7.8 percent (5.5 percent adjusted for inflation) between 2016 and 2017, to $29.59 billion.
- Giving to arts, culture, and humanities is estimated to have increased 8.7 percent (6.5 percent adjusted for inflation) between 2016 and 2017, to $19.51 billion.
- Giving to international affairs is estimated to be $22.97 billion in 2017, a decline of 4.4 percent (6.4 percent adjusted for inflation) from 2016, but still reached its third-highest level ever recorded.
- Giving to environmental and animal organizations is estimated to have increased 7.2 percent (5.0 percent adjusted for inflation) between 2016 and 2017, to $11.83 billion.
In addition, giving to individuals, which is less than 2 percent of total giving, is estimated to have declined 20.7 percent (22.4 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars) in 2017, to $7.87 billion, primarily as a result of an unusually high increase in 2016. The bulk of these donations are in-kind gifts of medications to patients in need, made through the patient assistance programs of pharmaceutical companies’ operating foundations.
“At $410 billion, giving in the US has reached 41 percent of a trillion dollars,” says Byrne. “There is a heightened interest in the overall economic environment and other factors that contributed to the growth of giving in 2017. This is a very positive sign for the overall outlook of philanthropy. I am optimistic we will reach $1 trillion in charitable giving in the next couple of years.”
Explore Giving USA products and resources, including free highlights of each annual report at its online store at www.givingusa.org for more information. And be sure to check out Jeffrey Byrne’s advice on how nonprofits can use Giving USA to improve fundraising.