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Giving Statistics

A widely-held perception is that corporations and foundations are the biggest sources to tap for grants and donations. The reality is that four out of five or approximately 80 percent of philanthropic dollars are contributed by individuals and bequests. Corporations and foundations are easier to target. Their contribution of 6 percent and 15 percent respectively was 21 percent of the total philanthropic dollars in 2012. Individuals are more of a challenge to reach and solicit, but are by far, the largest philanthropic resource. Fundraising strategies for parks need to consider all sources and how best to connect park needs with all potential donor sources and their motivations for giving.

According to Giving USA, a report compiled annually by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, figures on American philanthropy in 2012 showed that:

  • Americans gave more than $316.23 billion in 2012 to their favorite causes despite the still recovering economic conditions. Total giving was up 3.5 percent from 2011. This slight increase is reflective of improving economic confidence.
  • The greatest portion of charitable giving, $228.93 billion, was given by individuals or household donors. Gifts from individuals represented 72 percent of all contributed dollars, similar to figures for 2011.
  • Charitable bequests, which are made by individuals, totaled $23.41 billion or 7 percent of total giving. Charitable bequests declined an estimated 7.0 percent. The sum of gifts by individuals and charitable bequests is $252.34 billion or 79 percent of total giving.
  • Foundations gave $45.74 billion, accounting for 15 percent of all philanthropy in the USA. Giving by foundations increased 4.4 percent to an estimated $45.74 billion in 2012 (an increase of 2.3 percent, adjusted for inflation).
  • Individual, bequest and estimated family foundation giving combined were approximately $272 billion or 86 percent of total giving.
  • Corporate giving, which is tied to corporate profits, held steady in 2012 compared with 2011, totaling $18.15 billion (1 percent higher than in 2011). Corporate giving accounted for 6 percent of all charitable giving. (Corporations do invest additional advertising dollars in cause-related marketing as a business expense.)

  • Source: Giving USA 2013

    1) All figures are rounded.
    2) Foundations are defined by the Foundation Center as independent foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations and operating foundations. For more information see
    3) Unallocated sub sector includes "gifts to newly formed organizations; individual and corporate deductions expected to be claimed for gifts made in prior years; amounts that donors deduct at a value different from what the non-profit reports as revenue; gifts and grants to government entities claimed by donors but not reported as received at 501(c)(3) charity; and foundation grants to organizations located in another country." Giving USA
    4)Public-Society Benefit sub sector includes "contributions to nonprofit organizations collecting funds for distribution to a number of other agencies. These organizations include United Ways; Jewish federations and appeals; commercially sponsored donor-advised funds; and combined funds; such as the Combined Federal Campaign, America's Charities, and others." Giving USA

2012 Contributions By Source of Contribution
  Individuals   $228.93 billion
  Foundations   $45.74 billion
  Bequests   $23.41 billion
  Corporations   $18.15 billion

  • People give to support what they value and believe in. The giving percentages are relatively constant year to year with minor shifts. We need to think creatively how to tap into all the giving categories that can be related to our parks and programs.
  • Giving to arts, culture, and humanities organizations increased 1 percent in 2012 from 2011, with $14.44 billion in contributions. Giving to these causes, including historical and cultural preservation, accounted for 5 percent of all contributions. Giving to environment/conservation and animal-related causes increased 4.3 percent from 2011 to $8.3 billion in total contributions. Both are a relatively small percentages of total giving.
  • Think how you can also relate park needs and giving opportunities to the larger giving categories on the Contributions by Charitable Cause pie chart, such as education, human services, health and religion. Parks can support fitness initiatives, youth employment and education programs. In several instances, funds have been raised to restore historic churches in parks.
  • By 2050, an estimated $41 trillion will transfer from one generation to the next, with gifts to nonprofit organizations projected to exceed $6 trillion.

Source: Giving USA 2013

Footnote: *Unallocated contributions included deductions carried over multiple tax years, gifts to new organizations and government agencies, and foundation grants to international recipients.
2012 Contributions By Type of Recipient Organization
  Religion   $101.54 billion
  Education   $41.33 billion
  Gifts to Foundations*   $30.58 billion
  Human Services   $40.40 billion
  Public-Society Benefit   $21.63 billion
  Health   $28.12 billion
  International Affairs   $19.11 billion
  Arts, Culture & Humanities   $14.44 billion
  Environment & Animals   $8.30 billion
  Foundation Grants to Individuals   $3.96 billion
  Unallocated   $6.82 billion
*Estimate developed jointly by Foundation Center and Giving USA

Giving USA also surveyed charitable organizations to find out how gifts changed from the previous year.

Among the report findings:

  • Faith-based charities, including churches, received the most charitable gifts in 2012, capturing $101.54 billion – 32 percent of total contributions in 2012. Giving to religion was flat between 2011 and 2012. Reports released from various research institutions in 2012 analyzing religious trends reveal declining attendance and religious affiliation among Americans.
  • Charitable giving to colleges, universities and educational organizations accounted for the second largest share of all charitable giving at 13 percent. Educational institutions and organizations received $41.33 billion in gifts. Charitable giving to the education subsector increased by an estimated 7 percent in 2012 up from the 4 percent increase in 2011.
  • Giving to foundations increased in 2012 by an estimated 7.0 percent to $30.58 billion. The estimate for giving to foundations includes gifts made to independent, community and operating foundations.
  • Social or human service charities raised $40.40 billion in 2012. Giving to social service charities remained steady in 2012.
  • Increased concerns over global warming and the impact the environment has on health motivated donors to give $8.30 billion to environmental and animal-welfare issues. People are beginning to connect the environment to health-related issues. This has helped garner support and draw new donors for environmental causes. Giving for these organizations was 3 percent of the total estimated giving for 2012.
  • Contributions to public society benefit organizations - nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way or Jewish Federation, who collect funds for distribution to a number of other agencies - received $21.63 billion in donations. This reflects a 5.4 percent increase from 2011.
  • Overall giving to health-related organizations, such as hospitals and other health charities, that raise money for research, public awareness and fighting diseases increased to $28.12 billion, a modest increase of 0.6 percent in 2012.
  • Arts, cultural and humanities giving rose by 7.8 percent with more than $14.44 billion being raised for arts, culture and the humanities in 2012. Gifts to arts, culture and humanities organizations were 5 percent total of estimated giving in 2012.
  • International affairs organizations received $19.11 billion in 2012, an increase of 2.5 percent compared to 2011. International affairs giving is 6 percent of total estimated giving.

Charities were able to raise awareness and ultimately contributions by implementing new development strategies that include:

  • Build a more compelling case for giving in light of a more competitive fundraising environment. Charities built strong messages around the consequences of not supporting their cause, such as highlighting the loss of education or art programs, the closing of a center, or reductions in services.
  • Improve communications with donors through quarterly newsletters and regular email announcements.
  • Partner with other organizations to raise visibility and gain a broader audience.
  • Improve efforts in getting small annual gifts from members and acknowledging donor gifts within one or two days.
  • Increase advocacy work and draw attention to a need or crisis.
  • Shift priorities from fundraising for specific groups to fundraising for specific problems or needs.

In Charitable Giving to Education, Health and Arts: An Analysis of Data Collected in the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study, 2003, the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University concluded that beyond income and wealth, the most important indicator of a household's propensity to donate is philanthropic activity for other causes.

"The most important implication for fundraising professionals is that donors who either give or volunteer for one cause may extend their generosity to other causes," according to Campbell & Company who prepared the report. "These donors remain important sources of philanthropic potential for organizations..."

In light of this and increased giving in other sectors, park support organizations should relate park needs in donors' minds in other giving categories beyond environmental. Consider partnering with education, health and other charitable organizations to broaden the audience/potential donor base, diversify income sources and obtain additional funding through private foundations, government agencies and other income. Park support organizations can connect park needs with other charitable causes through a number of ways ranging from education initiatives to youth and health programs.

Non Cash Contributions

The recently published IRS Spring 2012 Statistics of Income Bulletin provides insight into noncash giving by donation type, donor age and income for tax year 2009. More than 6.7 million tax returns reported $28 billion in noncash charitable donations. Of the roughly 18.3 million noncash donations that were reported:

  • Corporate stock represented the largest category of noncash donations at $9.7 billion or 34.8 % of all contributions. However, the amounts deducted for corporate stock donations have declined significantly over the past few years. In Tax Year 2007, taxpayers reported $23.7 billion in corporate stock donations. The declines since 2007 represent a decrease of 59.1 percent.
  • Clothing donations represented the second largest category of noncash donations at $7.5 billion followed by donations of household donations at $4.2 billion. They represent 27.1 percent and 11.5 percent of all non cash contributions, respectively.
  • Taxpayers with annual gross incomes of $10 million or more gave the most non cash donations at $5.8 billion or 20 percent of all donations. The average donation amount per return of taxpayers in this category was $2.2 million. Taxpayers with annual gross incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 gave $5.1 billion (18.3 percent of all donations), representing the second largest group to give in terms of dollar value. The overall average donation amount for all taxpayers claiming donations and deductions were just over $4,100.
Individual Noncash Charitable Contributions, 2007
(Money amounts are in the thousands of dollars)
Type of Donation Number of Donations Amount
All donations 18,371,824 27,986,691
Corporate stock 231,171 9,726,331
Mutual funds 7,805 511,148
Other investments 4,554 873,535
Real estate 3,106 641,822
Land 5,519 937,818
Conservation Easement 2,102 973,209
Façade Easement 103 44,964
Art and collectibles 124,466 895,344
Food 301,288 85,326
Clothing 11,313,882 7,577,864
Accessories 74,241 22,296
Electronics 600,328 365,331
Household items 4,244,906 3,226,164
Cars 206,129 265,347
Other Vehicles 7,704 119,468
Services 30,860 31,031
Airline tickets/miles 2,502 2,114
Other 1,211,158 1,687,579

Footnote: (1) "Other" donations include donations of intellectual property. Source: Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income Bulletin, Spring 2012

Charitable Giving to Education, Health and Arts: An Analysis of Data Collected in the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study, 2003 analyzed the differences in the personal and household characteristics of donors to the three sectors.

Those who gave to arts, education and health represented 14 percent, 26 percent and 37 percent of the donors to secular charities, respectively.

The report found that 67 percent of households donated $25 or more to charity in 2002. Households contributed on average $1,872 each. Among the findings:

  • 11 percent of households contributed to religious causes only.
  • 21 percent contributed to only secular causes.
  • 34 percent contributed to both religious and secular causes.
  • Arts donors' contributed on average 2.1 percent of their income to secular causes, one of the highest shares of income for secular giving. The average amount contributed to the arts by donors was $215.
  • Education donors supported, on average, 2.7 other secular causes averaging 1.5 percent of their income. The average amount contributed to education by these donors was $416.
  • Donors to health-related causes support, on average, 2.4 other secular causes. Health donors give amounts to secular causes that average 1.2 percent of their income. The average amount contributed to health organizations by donors is $298.

For more information on the Giving USA Foundation, go to their website at or call 847-375-4709 or toll free 800-462-2372.

Information on the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University can be found at or contact 317-274-4200.

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