Giving by individuals grows nearly 4 percent, driving the rise in total giving; contributions to all nine major philanthropy subsectors increase—the sixth time in the last four decades.
American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities in 2016, according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016, released today.
Total giving rose 2.7 percent in current dollars (1.4 percent adjusted for inflation) from the revised estimate of $379.89 billion for total giving in 2015. (Please see below for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers for each philanthropic source and sector.)
Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Charitable giving from individuals, foundations and corporations all increased in 2016, while gifts by estates decreased sharply.
Giving to all nine major categories of recipient organizations grew, making 2016 just the sixth time in the past 40 years that this has occurred. The nine categories are religion; education; human services; giving to foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture and humanities; international affairs; and environment and animals.
“This report tells us that Americans remained generous in 2016, despite it being a year punctuated by economic and political uncertainty,” said Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, chair of Giving USA Foundation and senior counsel at Campbell & Company. “We saw growth in every major sector, indicating the resilience of philanthropy and diverse motivations of donors.”
The rise in total giving was spurred largely by giving from individuals, which increased nearly 4 percent in 2016.
“Individual giving continued its remarkable role in American philanthropy in a year that included a turbulent election season that reflected a globally resurgent populism,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “In this context, the absence of a dramatic change in giving is perhaps remarkable, but it also demonstrates the need for us to better understand the multitude of individual and collective decisions that comprise our record of national giving.”
While the political climate may play a role in some donors’ decisions to give to charity, research conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and other philanthropy researchers has long demonstrated that aggregate giving trends are influenced by large-scale economic factors. These factors ultimately affect the economic and financial circumstances of all types of donors and, therefore, their ability to give.
As an example of the link between the economy and charitable giving trends, giving by individuals has historically correlated with changes in such national-level economic indicators as personal consumption, disposable personal income and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. All of these factors are associated with households’ permanent and long-term financial stability.
In 2016, helping to increase giving by individuals and households, both personal consumption and disposable personal income grew by nearly 4 percent over 2015. The S&P 500 finished the year up 9.5 percent after uneven performance for much of 2016 and a mixed economic picture in 2015.
“When compared with giving by individuals, corporate giving saw slightly more modest growth in 2016, at 3.5 percent,” said Jeffrey Byrne, Chair of The Giving Institute, and president and CEO of Jeffrey D. Byrne + Associates. “Corporate giving is significantly influenced by annual changes in pre-tax profits and Gross Domestic Product, which was up 3.0 percent, as compared with 3.7 percent in 2015 and 4.2 percent in 2014. Similarly, corporate pre-tax profits, which can be quite variable from year to year, grew 2.7 percent in 2016.”
Highlights about Giving by Source
- Giving by individuals grew at a higher rate than the other sources of giving, outpacing giving by foundations and by corporations, and offsetting the sharp decline in bequests.
- Giving by foundations rose more slowly in 2016 compared to the stronger increases seen in recent years, according to data provided by Foundation Center.
- Corporate giving increased modestly in 2016, in the wake of slower GDP growth and little movement in the share of pre-tax profits directed to giving.
- Giving by bequest fell sharply, following two years of strong growth. Gifts in the form of bequests frequently fluctuate from year to year and are less influenced by economic factors.
“In 2016, we saw something of a democratization of philanthropy,” said Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “The strong growth in individual giving may be less attributable to the largest of the large gifts, which were not as robust as we have seen in some prior years, suggesting that more of that growth in 2016 may have come from giving by donors among the general population compared to recent years.”