Char­i­ta­ble giv­ing in U.S. tops $400B for first time

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - Front Page -

Fu­eled by a surg­ing stock mar­ket and huge gifts from bil­lion­aires, char­i­ta­ble giv­ing in the United States in 2017 topped the $400 bil­lion mark for the first time, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est com­pre­hen­sive re­port on Amer­i­cans’ giv­ing pat­terns.

The Giv­ing USA re­port, re­leased Tues­day, said giv­ing from in­di­vid­u­als, es­tates, foun­da­tions and cor­po­ra­tions reached an es­ti­mated $410 bil­lion in 2017 — more than the gross domestic prod­uct of coun­tries such as Is­rael and Ire­land. The to­tal was up 5.2 per­cent in cur­rent dol­lars (3 per­cent ad­justed for in­fla­tion) from the es­ti­mate of $389.64 bil­lion for 2016.

“Amer­i­cans’ record­break­ing char­i­ta­ble giv­ing in 2017 demon­strates that even in di­vi­sive times our commitment to phi­lan­thropy is solid,” said Ag­gie Sweeney, chair of Giv­ing USA Foun­da­tion, which pub­lishes the an­nual re­port. It is re­searched and writ­ten by the In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity Lilly Fam­ily School of Phi­lan­thropy.

Giv­ing in­creased to eight of the nine char­i­ta­ble sec­tors iden­ti­fied by Giv­ing USA. The only de­cline was for ar­eas re­lated to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

The big­gest in­crease was in giv­ing to foun­da­tions — up 15.5 per­cent. That surge was driven by large gifts from ma­jor phi­lan­thropists to their own foun­da­tions — in­clud­ing $1 bil­lion from Dell Tech­nolo­gies CEO Michael Dell and his wife, Su­san, and $2 bil­lion from Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Other sec­tors with in­creases of more than 6 per­cent in­cluded ed­u­ca­tion, health, arts and cul­ture, en­vi­ron­ment and an­i­mal wel­fare, and pub­lic-so­ci­ety ben­e­fit or­ga­ni­za­tions — groups which work on such is­sues as voter ed­u­ca­tion, civil rights, civil lib­er­ties and con­sumer rights.

De­spite the record-set­ting to­tal, Amer­i­cans’ level of gen­eros­ity is no higher than it was decades ago. For 2017, giv­ing by in­di­vid­u­als rep­re­sented 2 per­cent of to­tal dis­pos­able in­come — down from 2.4 per­cent in 2000 and the same as the rate in 1978. Sim­i­larly, to­tal char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions have hov­ered around 2 per­cent of the gross domestic prod­uct for many years; for 2017, that fig­ure was 2.1 per­cent.

Una Osili, a dean and eco­nomics pro­fes­sor at the Lilly Fam­ily School of Phi­lan­thropy, says the school’s re­search shows that the per­cent­age of U.S. house­holds mak­ing char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions has de­clined steadily in re­cent years, from about 67 per­cent in 2000 to 56.6 per­cent in 2015 — the lat­est year for which data is avail­able.

She said giv­ing rates for lower- and mid­dle-class fam­i­lies had dropped sig­nif­i­cantly since the 2008 re­ces­sion, while the giv­ing rate for the wealth­i­est 20 per­cent of house­holds was rel­a­tively steady.

Stacy Palmer, edi­tor of the Chron­i­cle of Phi­lan­thropy, said many fundrais­ers in the U.S. — while pleased with the re­cent in­crease in gifts — are un­sure what lies ahead.

If trade wars break out, she said, that could weaken the econ­omy to the point at which it de­ters some donors. She said fundrais­ers also worry that some mid­dle-class donors may cut back on giv­ing if changes in the new tax law no longer give them a de­duc­tion for their char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions.

Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg and his wife, Priscilla Chan in San Fran­cisco.

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