Healthier economy sparks increase in U.S. charitable giving
Posted on: July 28, 2015 at 2:14 pm

By Joyce Penland, CFRE

The Giving USA report on last year’s charitable giving in the United States has been released and we have reason to be encouraged. Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014, surpassing the peak last seen before the Great Recession that began in 2008.

That’s the good news coming from the 60th anniversary edition of Giving USA. The 2014 giving total topped a 2007 benchmark, when giving reached an estimated inflation-adjusted total of $355.17 billion. The 2014 total marked the fifth consecutive year in which giving increased.

The report stated that the four sources of total giving—individuals (72 percent of the total); corporations (5 percent); foundations (15 percent); and bequests (8 percent)—all increased their 2014 contributions to America’s million-plus charities. Giving USA Foundation officials saw this “across the board” increase as a sign of resilience and perseverance.

W. Keith Curtis, chair of the Foundation and president of Virginia Beach, VA nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group said, “Individual giving is affected by available disposable income at the household level, wealth, and growth in the S&P 500. All three increased last year as did the amount people spent in general—not just on charitable donations. Corporate giving decisions, on the other hand, have historically been driven by changes in pretax profits and GDP. Other factors might be affecting how much they donate; time—and further research—will tell.”

“With virtually every economic indicator that gets measured showing growth, I think it’s safe to conclude they played a large part in making 2014 a banner year for giving from every source,” he added.

What does this mean for our region?

Heather Diehl, President of the San Antonio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said that our region reflects the growth in giving seen elsewhere in the country. “The reaction to the Big Give SA mirrors that growth. We raised $2.1 million last year through the Big Give and this year’s total was $4.3 million, and that’s primarily from individual donors.”

Diehl said that the San Antonio Area Foundation, where she serves as Donor Relations Officer for Engagement, has also seen an uptick in gifts, citing the recent gift from San Antonio real estate and theatre magnate John Santikos to SAAF. The San Antonio Area Foundation has distributed more than $6 million from the new Santikos Charitable Foundation. Diehl said the gift’s impact “has had an enormous effect on nonprofits in our area.”

She also said that area nonprofits are adding staff in their development offices again and “That’s always a good sign.”

“Giving in Austin and Central Texas is strong,” says Mike Nellis, CEO of the Austin Community Foundation. “In 2014 we saw a nearly 20% increase in giving over 2013. I see the growth trend continuing this year as I meet with individuals, families and companies which have experienced great success and want to invest some of their wealth into making our region stronger. While we are grateful for our community’s generosity, it’s important to also note that the rapid growth in our region is not providing prosperity for everyone—many individuals and families are struggling due to a growing lack of affordability. Philanthropy will continue to be essential to preserve a vibrant and diverse Austin and Central Texas.”

Stay tuned for next month’s summary of Giving USA’s report on the donors and recipients of charitable gifts in 2014.

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. More information about the report is available online at http://www.givingusa.org