Washington: Mega gifts, including a first instalment of $1.9 (Rs8,740 crore then) billion from Warren Buffett to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helped boost US charitable giving to $295 billion last year, a new report says.
Such large gifts accounted for 1.3% of giving in 2006, according to an annual report released on Monday by the Giving USA Foundation, using research by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Among recipients, arts and education non-profits registered the fastest growth.
Overall donations by individuals, corporations and foundations have risen for three consecutive years. The growth in 2006 represented a 4.2% increase, or just 1% when adjusted for inflation, a result of the extraordinary jump in giving in 2005 to relief efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Indian Ocean tsunami in late 2004.
“Charitable giving for the year 2005 will always have an asterisk associated with it,” George Ruotolo Jr., a member of Giving USA’s governing board, said in a statement. “Not so in 2006, when giving returned to more normal levels that were still a record.”
Charitable donations in 2005 totalled $283.1 billion, according to Giving USA’s revised tally based on individual, corporate, estate and foundation tax returns. That was 9.3% higher than the $259 billion tally in 2004.
Arts, culture and humanities organizations received $12.5 billion in 2006, a 9.9% increase over $11.4 billion in 2005. The rise, the largest of any sector, is good news for arts advocates who fret that donors have redirected their giving to other causes in the past two decades.
Advocacy group Americans for the Arts said in an April report that non-profit theatres, museums and local arts-education programmes are “at risk” due to a drop in philanthropy.
Melissa Brown, managing editor of Giving USA, said the boost in arts giving follows a historical pattern. “Arts giving recovers later from an economic downtown than other types of giving,” Brown said. Other sectors typically rebound from a slowdown, such as the one that hit the US economy in 2002, about two to three years before the arts sector does, she said. “Arts donors have been wanting to give, and now they have the resources to do it.”
The arts sector received a 4.2% share of total giving in 2006, up from 4% in 2005, but down from a high of 5.6% in 1998. Second only to the arts, giving to education rose 9.8% in 2006 to $41 billion, the report says.
Four sectors of giving received less money in 2006 than in 2005, when adjusted for inflation: human services, international affairs, health, and environment and animals. All of those sectors may have experienced an increase in giving in 2005 as a result of the natural disasters.
Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., gave $1.9 billion to the Gates foundation last August, the first instalment of his pledge of Berkshire stock valued at about $31 billion. That made him the top donor of 2006, when at least 20 other Americans gave $100 million or more to charity, according to a survey released in February by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
As a group, Americans donate about 2% of their after-tax household income to charity, with the largest portion—32.8% in 2006—going to religious institutions.
Individuals gave $222.9 billion in 2006, up 4.4%, and their estates left an additional $22.9 billion in bequests, according to Giving USA. Foundations gave $36.5 billion, up 12.6%, and corporations gave $12.7 billion, down 7.6%.