Charitable giving grew in 2012, albeit modestly -report

Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:25am EDT
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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Individual charitable giving in the United States grew almost 4 percent last year, while corporate donations rose at triple that rate, according to a report that shows donations by Americans to nonprofit groups mirroring the slow recovery of the larger economy.

Overall, U.S. donations to bolster the arts, health, religion and other activities totaled $316.2 billion in 2012, a 3.5 percent increase from the $305.5 billion donated in 2011, according to the report, "Giving USA." That was just a 1.5 percent increase when adjusted for inflation.

The annual report is published by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Donations are still down about 8 percent from their 2007 peak of $344.5 billion. Giving levels fell sharply during the subsequent recession.

"In 2012, Americans were feeling better - but not great," Gregg Carlson, chair of the foundation, wrote in the study. But he said even the small increase in giving showed the "healing continues, with the prognosis being good." Giving, as a general rule, follows the economy and consumer confidence, he said.

Individuals in the United States donated $228.9 billion last year, a 3.9 percent increase from $220.3 billion in 2011, the widely followed study found. Individual giving typically makes up almost three-quarters of all giving, and it may still be constrained by widespread unemployment, underemployment and worries about the economy, said Patrick Rooney, an associate dean at Indiana University who worked on the report.

In contrast, companies and their foundations increased their giving by 12.2 percent to nearly $18.2 billion in 2012, compared with $16.2 billion the year before.

Giving by charitable foundations, up 4.4 percent, added another $45.7 billion in 2012, and bequeathed gifts, which can vary year-to-year based on estate closings, fell 7 percent to $23.4 billion last year.   Continued...

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (L) plays table tennis with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in Omaha May 5, 2013 the day after company's annual meeting. REUTERS/Rick Wilking