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Charitable Giving to Education and Other Non-Profits Rises in 2010

June 21, 2011

After falling sharply over the past two years, total gifts, bequests, and other donations to American charities and other non-profits (including colleges, universities, and elementary/secondary schools) rose an estimated 3.8 percent in current dollars in 2010, according to the Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2010, by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Giving USA estimates that American non-profit organizations received more than $290 billion in total contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations in 2010. Gifts from individuals accounted for 73 percent of the total, followed by foundations (14 percent) and bequests (8 percent). Churches and other religious organizations received about $100.6 billion in total charitable contributions, followed by education institutions (including colleges, universities, and elementary/secondary schools), which received $41.7 billion, and gifts to independent, community, and grant-making foundations ($33 billion).

The recent increases in charitable giving appear to have been a great benefit to educational non-profit schools, colleges, and related organizations Donations to education institutions rose 5.2 percent in current dollars during the 2009 to 2010 period. Gifts to churches and other religious institutions, on the other hand, were essentially unchanged. Only donations to international affairs organizations grew at a faster rate (15.3 percent) than education. Giving USA speculates that this increase was due to Americans' response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as well as natural disasters in other countries. Still, these international affairs organizations received just 5 percent of the total donations in 2010.

The recent upturn in charitable giving does not yet appear to have been large enough to reverse the losses incurred during the Great Recession. When adjusted for inflation, total charitable giving in 2010 was 4.2 percent below the amounts donated in 2008. The greatest loss has occurred in bequests, which remain roughly 28 percent below their 2008 levels. Giving USA analysts believe that charitable giving levels will not return to their pre-recession levels for another five or six years.

During the 2008-to-2010 time span, total donations to education institutions fell 2 percent in inflation-adjusted value. Contributions to religious organizations also dropped about 2 percent, but contributions to international affairs groups jumped 17 percent.

A copy of the executive summary of the Giving USA report is available from the Giving USA Web site.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis