Americans continue to give: Charitable donations surpass $300 billion mark

Despite paying more at the pump and the grocery store, Americans dug deep into their pockets and donated a record $306 billion to charities in 2007, accounting for 2.1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

A survey by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University showed it is the first time charitable giving has surpassed the $300 billion mark. When inflation was taken into consideration, charitable giving by Americans increased one percent over the previous year, according to the survey, which was released Monday.

Giving from private foundations was up by 7 percent from last year. The combined assets of foundations in the United States blossomed from $550 billion in 2006 to $614 billion last year thanks to gains in stock market investments and a record $37 billion in new gifts, according to the Foundation Center, which researches philanthropic giving. The survey found that foundations are spending more of their assets than they did a decade ago and more than half of the foundations surveyed plan to increase giving this year.

Giving through personal bequests was also up 4 percent after adjusting for inflation. The overwhelming majority of the giving, about $229 billion, was from individuals. China View reported that more than half of that money came from households earning the top 10 percent of incomes in the country.

"But after years of steady growth, that figure remained stagnant last year, a sign that the softening economy may be pinching charitable contributions," The Washington Post reported.

Giving from corporations showed an inflation-adjusted decline of 1 percent from 2006 to 2007, coming in at $15.9 billion. This comes at a time when the need for charitable help is soaring nationwide. The Washington Post reported that requests for emergency assistance at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington have gone up 28 percent.

Giving USA found that religious congregations received the most money from donors, collecting $102 billion of all gifts. Next were nonprofit educational organizations, which raised a total of $43 billion. But international aid agencies, environmental groups, and human services charities reaped the largest increases in charitable gifts last year.

You may like these other stories...

For the first time since 2006, more than 50 percent of CFOs believe the US economy will show signs of improvement over a six-month span rather than remain the same or worsen, according to a new study from Chicago-based...
By Jason Bramwell, Staff Writer CPAs in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania believe economic conditions in the United States will likely be the same one year from now, and while they predict higher business revenues...
By Jason Bramwell Managers in accounting, finance, and IT are cautiously optimistic about their hiring plans for the fourth quarter of 2013, according to a new hiring outlook survey from staffing firm Brilliant. ...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 16
Hand off work to others with finesse and success. Kristen Rampe, CPA will share how to ensure delegated work is properly handled from start to finish in this content-rich one hour webinar.
Jul 17
This webcast will cover the preparation of the statement of cash flows and focus on accounting and disclosure policies for other important issues described below.
Jul 23
We can’t deny a great divide exists between the expectations and workplace needs of Baby Boomers and Millennials. To create thriving organizational performance, we need to shift the way in which we groom future leaders.
Jul 24
In this presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA revisits the Excel feature you should be using, but probably aren't. The Table feature offers the ability to both boost the integrity of your spreadsheets, but reduce maintenance as well.