Among America's wealthiest households, religious organizations and schools were most likely to receive charitable contributions in 2014
As goes the U.S. economy, so go charitable contributions, according to “Giving USA 2015.” Last year, Americans donated an unprecedented $358.38 billion, a 7.1 percent growth in giving.
The annual report, now in its 60th year, 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.
Charitable giving has increased for the fifth year in a row. The 2014 total surpassed the peak last seen before the Great Recession, Give USA noted, and exceeded the benchmark year of 2007, when charitable giving reached an estimated inflation-adjusted total of $355.17 billion.
Contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests all rose last year with donations from individuals accounting for 72 percent of the total. Individual donations were up 5.7 percent from the previous year. America’s biggest donors gave $10.2 billion to nonprofits in 2014, with foundations and higher education receiving the most money, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy ‘s rankings of last year’s 50 top donors. Bill and Melinda Gates top that list with a $1.9 billion donation to their foundation.
Rounding out the top five were Ralph C. Wilson Jr. ($1 billion), Theodore (Ted) Stanley ($652,394,500), Jan Koum ($555,975,000) and Sean Parker ($550,000,000). The most donors (12) came from the 80-89 age group, followed by those between 90-99 (7).
Foundations comprised 15 percent of charitable contributions last year, followed by bequests (8 percent) and corporations (5 percent).
A 2014 Spectrem Group wealth level study of America’s wealthiest households (with a net worth of at least $25 million, not including primary residence) found that the highest percentage of institutions most likely to receive charitable donations were religious organizations (25 percent) and colleges/schools (22 percent).
The Giving USA report underscores these preferences. Religion contributions reached $114.90 billion in 2014, an increase of 2.5 percent in current dollars. Education giving increased to $54.62 billion, a 4.9 percent increase from the previous year.
The next most popular recipients of charitable donations were: Human resources; health; arts/culture/humanities; environment/animals; public-society benefit; foundations; and international affairs.
Last year’s biggest donations were in the $200 million-plus neighborhood, said Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs and research. “A few ere greater than $500 million and one was nearly $2 billion. The majority of these mega-gifts were given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs. These gifts are high-impact and are addressing many critical issues of our time, particularly medical research.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.