US Charitable Giving Up 6.1% in 2005, Reports Giving USA; Three Disasters Drove Increase
June 19, 2006 — According to a new report by Giving USA, Americans gave $260.28 billion to charitable organizations in 2005, an increase of 6.1 percent over 2004 donations. This generosity approaches the inflation-adjusted high of $260.53 billion that was reached in 2000.
The new Giving USA report, which was released today, said that three major natural disasters – the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, an earthquake in Pakistan, and hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Wilma – drove US philanthropy to its highest level since the end of the technology boom. Nearly half of the overall increase of $15 billion ($7.37 billion) went directly to aid victims of the three disasters.
Of that amount, individuals gave 79 percent and corporations gave the rest.
While Americans’ generosity is impressive, those megadollars are increasing competition in the disaster field as more charities jump in and scoop up some of that beneficence. In the past nine months, almost 500 new charities aimed at helping Hurricane Katrina victims have been approved by the Internal Revenue Service.
Contributions after large disasters have soared in recent years into territory unimagined in past decades. Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which led to nearly $3 billion in donations for victims' families, donations because of large-scale disasters were measured in millions – not billions.
However, public confidence in charities reportedly fell after 9/11 and then stabilized. It fell again after Hurricane Katrina when some high-profile stumbles were made in getting donations to the hurricane-impacted Gulf coast.
In the 41 years that Giving USA has tracked philanthropy, giving has increased with the wealth of the nation. Since 1965, total contributions have been between 1.7 percent and 2.3 percent of gross domestic product. For 2005, it was estimated to be 2.1 percent of GDP.
Although that's great news for the disaster victims getting the help, nonprofit experts say, it comes with a hitch: The disaster relief industry has become so hot with more organizations -- and even state governments -- crowding into the field and vying for donors' dollars that charities with more experience are unhappy.
Giving USA, the Annual Report on Philanthropy, is published by Giving USA Foundation™, a public service initiative of the Giving Institute (formerly American Association of Fundraising Counsel). The study is researched and written at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the nation's premier philanthropy research institution. The partnership between Giving USA Foundation™ and The Center on Philanthropy draws on the expertise of the Center's faculty and research team to enhance and build on the Giving Institute’s half-century of data on giving.
The mission of Giving USA Foundation is to advance the research, education and public understanding of philanthropy. It was founded in 1985 by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, now Giving Institute.
For information on how to purchase the report, visit http://www.aafrc.org/gusa.