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Giving USA 2016: Annual Philanthropy Report

Charitable giving continued its upward trend in 2015, as an estimated $373 billion was given to charitable causes. For the second year in a row, total giving reached record levels, and taking 2014 and 2015 together, charitable giving has increased over 10% (using inflation-adjusted dollars). This increase and the overall size of charitable contributions is further testament to the integral role charities play in our society, a role which continues to grow.

How much do we give?

  • Total giving to charitable organizations was $373.25 billion in 2015 (2.1% of GDP). This is an increase of 4.1% in current dollars and 4% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2014.
  • This is the sixth straight year that giving has increased and the second straight record-setting year, following 2014’s total of $358.38 billion.
  • Comparing GDP growth and change in charitable giving over 2010-2015, the average increase in giving to charitable causes (3.6%) is greater than the growth of GDP (2%).

Who is giving?

  • Giving increased in every category of giver (individual, foundation, corporate and bequest).
  • As in previous years, the majority of that giving came from individuals. Specifically, individuals gave $264.58 billion, accounting for 71% of all giving and representing a 3.8% increase over 2014 (3.7% when adjusted for inflation).
  • Giving by bequest was up 2.1% in current dollars (or 1.9% when adjusted for inflation) to $31.76 billion.
  • Foundations gave $58.46 billion which represented an increase of 6.5% (or 6.3% when adjusted for inflation).
  • Corporations donated $18.45 billion for an increase of 3.9% (or 3.8% when adjusted for inflation).
  • Historically, as we saw in 2014, donations from individuals account for over two-thirds of all donations. If you add in gifts from bequests and family foundations, which are essentially gifts from individuals, then the category accounts for nearly 80% of all giving. In other words, the donating public, not big foundations or corporations, is responsible for the vast majority of annual donations.

Where do the donations go?

  • Giving to Education charities was up 8.9% (8.8% inflation-adjusted) to $57.48 billion.
  • Donations to Human Services charities were up 4.2% (4.1% inflation-adjusted) to $45.21 billion.
  • Foundations saw a decrease of 3.8% (4.0% inflation-adjusted) to $42.26 billion.
  • Health charities experienced an increase of 1.3% (1.2% inflation-adjusted) to $29.81 billion.
  • Charities that focus on the Environment Animals saw an increase of 6.5% (6.1% inflation-adjusted) to $10.68 billion.
  • Public-Society Benefit charities saw an increase of 6.0% (5.9% inflation-adjusted) to $26.95 billion.
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities saw an increase of 7% (6.8% inflation-adjusted) to $17.07 billion.
  • Giving to International charities increased by 17.5% (17.4% inflation-adjusted), to $15.75 billion.
  • Historically, Religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations. This remained true in 2015, and the sector saw an increase for the second year in a row.  With the 2.7% increase (2.6% inflation-adjusted) in donations this year, 33% of all donations ($119.3 billion) went to Religious organizations. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship.


All data is the property of Giving USA 2016, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.