US charitable giving up modestly in 2011: study

American charitable giving showed modest growth in 2011, in a reflection of a subdued economic recovery, a survey showed Tuesday.

Contributions from American individuals, corporations and foundations rose 4.0 percent to $298.4 billion last year. Adjusted for inflation, the increase was just 0.9 percent, according to the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

The increase was below the average inflation-adjusted growth of 2.6 percent of the past 40 years, but showed positive growth after steep declines in 2008 and 2009, the report said.

"Charitable giving, like other spending categories in the average American household budget, seems to be climbing out of the trough that resulted from the Great Recession, much like some other indicators measuring the state of the economy," said Jim Yunker, chair of the Giving USA Foundation.

"The estimates for giving in 2011 are encouraging, but they demonstrate that charities still face ongoing challenges," said Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy.

"In the past two years charitable giving has experienced its second slowest recovery following any recession since 1971."

The study authors said charitable giving largely reflects overall economic conditions.

Gifts from individuals, which make up the bulk of contributions, accounted for 73 percent of the total or $217.79 billion. The figure was up 3.9 percent, or 0.8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Individual giving as a percentage of disposable personal income remained at 1.9 percent in 2011, the same as in 2009 and 2010.

"The fact that individual giving as a percentage of disposable personal income held steady for the second consecutive year signals that Americans remain committed to helping others," Rooney said.

"However, people have had to make tough decisions about how they spend their money, and many have had to reduce the portion of their budget that goes to charity below what they normally give."

Charitable bequests, which can vary widely with the deaths of wealthy individuals, were up 12.2 percent, or 8.8 percent after adjustment, at $24.41 billion.

Foundation grants increase 1.8 percent to $41.67 billion, but this category showed a decline of 1.3 percent after inflation.

Corporate gifts were virtually flat at $14.55 billion.

The largest recipients were religious organizations, which accounted for 32 percent of gifts. Some 13 percent went to educational institutions.

Source: AFP

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