Americans gave an estimated $316.2 billion to charity last year, continuing a string of small philanthropic gains that reflect the country’s slow economic recovery, a new study says.
Giving by individuals, corporations and foundations was up 3.5 percent from 2011, or 1.5 percent after adjusting for inflation, according to research conducted at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on behalf of the Giving USA Foundation.
Released Tuesday, the annual Giving USA report is good news for the not-for-profit sector, which saw donations drop by 15 percent during the recession. At its peak, annual charitable giving surpassed $344 billion.
Giving USA has reported gains for three straight years.
“We have started to see a sustained recovery as it relates to giving,” said Una Osili, director of research at the IU philanthropy school. “The modest growth is actually quite encouraging.”
Even so, she said it could take another six or seven years to make up the lost ground at the current rate of growth.
The new report is the 58th edition of Giving USA, a public-service initiative of Chicago-based The Giving Institute.
Uncertainty over the future of the federal tax deduction for charitable gifts likely affected donations during 2012, institute board chairman David H. King said in a prepared statement. Some donors may have “prepaid” gifts to make sure they got the deduction, he said, while others may have opted against large gifts payable over several years.
But the state of the economy wields the most influence, given its connection to donors’ financial security.
Take corporate giving, which was up 9.9 percent last year after adjusting for inflation to an estimated $18.2 billion. It’s probably no coincidence that corporate pretax profits increased more than 16 percent during 2012, Usili said.
Individuals gave $228.9 billion in 2012, the new report found, up 1.9 percent after inflation adjustments. Foundations gave $45.7 billion, up 2.3 percent.
After accounting for inflation, researchers also estimated:
— Giving to arts, culture and humanities causes—hit hard during the recession—totaled $14.44 billion in 2012, a 5.7-percent increase.
— Giving to environmental and animal organizations totaled $8.3 billion, up 4.7 percent.
—Giving to education was $41.44 billion, up 4.9 percent.
— Giving to human services totaled $40.40 billion, up 1.8 percent.
— Giving to health organizations was $28.1 billion, up 2.8 percent.
— Giving to religion was $101.5 billion, a 2.2-percent drop. Even so, religious organizations received 32 percent of all U.S. giving in 2012, the report said.