Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Despite worst recession since the Great Depression, giving down only slightly.

You would think with unemployment up and the economy still weak, the charitable giving of people would be down dramatically. Not the case. Only off 3.6% in 2009.
The GivingUSA report for the calendar year 2009 shows that, in spite of this being the worst year since the Great Depression, with unemployment at massive levels and discretionary spending at a low, America's giving to philanthropic causes declined only 3.6% (or 3.2% when adjusted for inflation.

And this is not the steepest drop in giving, in real terms: in 1974, for example, giving fell by 5.5 percent.

It is absolutely astonishing that Americans gave away more than $300 billion during such a tough year.

This is the first decline in giving (in current dollars) since 1987, and only the second since Giving USA began publishing annual reports in 1956.

In other words, as American prosper, they give away more and more, and when they stop prospering, they still continue to give as much as they can. In 1974, giving
averaged $1,323 per household (including non-donors) which was 1.8% of GDP whereas, in 2009, it averaged $1,940 per household (including non-donors) or 2.1% of GDP.

It is fascinating that 75% of the giving is by individuals, whereas only 4% is by companies, while 13% is by foundations, and 8% is from bequests.

Even more fascinating: while corporate giving rose 5.5 percent, charitable bequests fell 23.9 percent in 2009 and foundation grantmaking fell by 8.9 percent. However, individual giving fell only 0.4 percent.
I wonder though whether there will be a much more significant drop if/when taxes start going up significantly. Which surely will be the case if President Obama and the current configuration of Congress have their way.

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