Charitable giving in the United States fell to an estimated $307.65 billion in 2008, a drop of 2 percent from 2007, a new report from the Giving USA Foundation finds.
Researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the report, Giving USA 2009, found that while charitable giving in the U.S. exceeded $300 billion for the second year in a row, the total was below the revised estimated total of $314.07 billion for 2007, making 2008 the first year since 1987 — and only the second since Giving USA began publishing annual reports in 1956 — that U.S. giving in current dollars declined. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the drop in giving was 5.7 percent.
The report also found that foundation grantmaking, corporate giving, individual giving, and charitable bequests all fell in 2008 — by 0.8 percent, 8 percent, 6.3 percent, and 6.4 percent, respectively — and that two-thirds of public charities experienced a decline in donations, with the exceptions being religious, public-society benefit, and international affairs charities. In terms of gross domestic product, however, giving remained robust at roughly 2.2 percent of GDP, compared with 2.3 percent in 2007.
According to the report, human services organizations were among the first to see an increase in demand for services and a slow-down in contributions as the economy soured last year. According to a national survey of human services groups, 54 percent of respondents reported an increase in demand for their services in 2008, while 60 percent said they had cut expenses in 2009. More than half (53 percent) of the surveyed organizations said they are currently underfunded or severely underfunded.
"With the United States mired in a recession throughout 2008, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that charitable giving would be down," said Giving USA Foundation chairwoman Del Martin. "However, what we find remarkable is that individuals, corporations, and foundations still provided more than $307 billion to causes they support, despite the economic conditions."