Charitable giving grew 4 percent nationally in 2011, but the increase was less than 1 percent after adjusting for inflation, according to a report released Tuesday by the Giving USA Foundation and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Americans gave an estimated $298.4 billion to not-for-profits and religious organizations last year, the report says. Total donations were up from a revised $286.9 billion in 2010 and $280.3 billion 2009.
“It’s encouraging when we look at these numbers that total giving has increased for the second straight year,” said Una Osili, director of research at the IU center, “and we had one of the steepest declines in giving since World War II [during the recession].”
After accounting for inflation, researchers determined:
— Individual donations totaled $217.8 billion in 2011, increased 0.8 percent from 2010 and accounted for 73 percent of all gifts.
— Estate donations totaled $24.4 billion, increased 8.8 percent and accounted for 8 percent of all gifts.
— Foundation donations totaled $41.7 billion, decreased 1.3 percent and accounted for 14 percent of all gifts.
— Corporate donations totaled $14.5 billion, decreased 3.1 percent and accounted for 5 percent of all gifts.
Donations tend to follow the overall economy, Osili said, so as the nation slowly recovers, philanthropy is crawling back at a slight lag.
But “considerable uncertainty” remains about onging improvement, he said.
“Look at GDP, the stock market … many of those indicators continue to be somewhat volatile,” Osili said. “There’s likely going to be considerable uncertainty over what the future of giving will be next year.”
The growth rate in donations in 2010 and 2011 was less than half what it historically is after recessions.
In the two years after every recession in the past 40 years, charitable giving grew by an average of 2.6 percent after adjusting for inflation. After the most recent downturn, donations increased by 1.1 percent.
To summarize where the money went:
Religion was the biggest beneficiary of charitable giving, receiving $95.9 billion in 2011, which was 4.7 percent less than in 2010 and accounted for 32 percent of all gifts.
— Education received $38.9 billion, which was 0.9 percent more than in 2010, and accounted for 13 percent of all gifts.
— Foundations received $25.8 billion, 8.9 percent less and 9 percent of all gifts.
— Human services got $35.4 billion, 0.6 percent less and 12 percent of all gifts.
— Health received $24.8 billion, 0.4 percent less and 8 percent of all gifts.
— Public society-benefiting groups (such as United Way) got $21.4 billion, 0.9 percent more and 7 percent of all gifts.
— Arts, culture and humanities received $13.1 billion, 1 percent more and 4 percent of all gifts.
— International affairs got $22.7 billion, 4.4 percent more and 8 percent of all gifts.
— Environmental and animal organizations received $7.8 billion, 1.4 percent more and 3 percent of all gifts
— Individuals received $3.8 billion, 5.6 percent more and 1 percent of all gifts.
International affairs-related giving, once a blip in terms of total donations, has risen in recent years as the world becomes more connected via the Internet and social networks, Osili said. When news breaks about major natural disasters, especially, donations tend to surge.
Domestically, contributions have picked up for human services as people struggle with unemployment and other economic hardships, said Jim Yunker, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation.
Before accounting for inflation, the category took in 2.5 percent more money in 2011 than in 2010.
The problem, Yunker said, is that organizations such as food pantries and homeless shelters still can’t keep up with demand despite receiving more donations.