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U.S. Charitable Giving Reached Record $449.64 Billion in 2019

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Charitable giving in the U.S. reached $449.64 billion in 2019, the highest dollar total on record, according to an annual report published by Giving USA Foundation on Tuesday.

Measured in current dollars, charitable giving in 2019 increased 4.2% from the previous year, or 2.4% after adjusting for inflation, according to the report, 9 , researched and written by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.

Adjusted for inflation, the giving marked the second highest level on record, just slightly below the all-time high dollar amount achieved in 2017. The Chicago-based Giving USA Foundation has been publishing the annual philanthropy report since 1956.

“Giving increased substantially in 2019, ending the decade on a high note,” Rick Dunham, chair of Giving USA Foundation and founder and CEO of Dunham + Company, said in a statement. “While it’s too soon to tell what that will mean in the uncharted territory we all find ourselves in today, these estimates provide an important baseline for understanding where giving stood at the outset of the current crisis.”

The solid growth in charitable giving in 2019 was buoyed by economic growth and a strong stock market. In current dollars, the U.S. GDP grew 4.1% and the S&P 500 saw a 28.9% increase last year, according to the report.

Giving by individuals, the largest source of charity in the U.S. which accounts for 70% of the total, was estimated at $309.66 billion, rising 4.7% year-over-year in 2019 (an increase of 2.8% after adjusting for inflation).

Meanwhile, giving by corporations is estimated to have increased by 13.4% in 2019 to $21.09 billion, largely because of changes in corporate pre-tax profits and economic growth. Giving by foundations increased 2.5%, to an estimated $75.69 billion, while giving by bequest was slightly up—by 0.2%—from 2018 to an estimated $43.21 billion.

Religious organizations remained the largest recipient of charitable giving in 2019, with donations increasing 2.3% from 2018 to an estimated $128.17 billion. However, in terms of annual growth rate, sectors that saw double-digit growth include education (rising 12.1% to $64.11 billion); arts, culture, and humanities (rising 12.6% to $21.64 billion); public-society benefit organizations (rising 13.1%, to $37.16 billion), and environmental and animal organizations (rising 11.3%, to $14.16 billion).

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