Philanthropic Americans were nearly as generous in 2019 as in 201, when giving reached an all-time high, according to a report on philanthropy released today.

Total charitable giving reached $449.64 billion last year, a 4.2% increase over 2018’s $431.43 billion, according to “Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019,” compiled by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy for the Giving USA Foundation.

In 2017, charitable giving from individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations reached a high water mark of $450.71 billion.

“While it is too soon to tell what that will mean in the uncharted territory we find ourselves in today, these estimates provide an important baseline for understanding where giving stood at the outset of the current crisis,” said Rick Dunham, chair of the Giving USA Foundation.

Positive economic conditions resulted in growth in giving from individuals, foundations and corporations, while it remained flat for bequests, the report said. The economic growth led to increases in giving to religion; education; human services; foundations; health organizations; public society benefit organizations; arts, culture and humanities; and environment and animal organizations. Only international affairs remained steady.

“In 2019, giving to nearly all of the subsectors grew, reflecting the wide interests and causes that Americans care about,” said Laura MacDonald, vice-chair of Giving USA Foundation. “With the growth in giving from donor-advised funds, planned giving programs, and the evolution to online giving platforms and giving days, there are more varied opportunities than there were 10 years ago for nonprofits to engage with current and prospective donors.”

Amir Pasic, dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, added, “In 2019, the growth in total giving was driven by an increase in giving by individuals, which remains by far the biggest source of giving. Interestingly, in recent years we’ve seen a consistent and growing trend in giving by foundations comprising a larger share of total giving than it did 15 years ago. This change may reflect larger trends such as in the distribution of wealth and in asset growth across a decade of stock market expansion.”

The overall U.S. economy was relatively strong in 2019, lifted by the robust performance of many of the economic factors that affect giving, such as a 28.9% increase in the S&P 500 and 4.1% growth in the GDP, the report said.

“While giving trends vary by donors’ income and wealth, since the Great Recession, we have seen giving become more concentrated toward the top end of the income and wealth spectrum,” said Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Giving by individuals totaled $309.66 billion in 2019, an increase of 4.7%. Foundations increased giving by 2.5%, to an estimated $75.69 billion. Giving by bequests was essentially flat with a growth rate of 0.2% from 2018 for a total of $43.21 billion.

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