Americans donated $25.9 billion last year to the 400 largest charities in the nation, according to a survey listing the Salvation Army as the biggest recipient for a fifth straight year.
The Salvation Army raised $1 billion in 1996, up from $741.7 million a year earlier, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Monday in its annual survey.
The list ranks organizations receiving the most private donations. Charities on the Philanthropy 400 list received about $1 out of every $6 donated to charity nationwide.
Donations to the Salvation Army far outpaced those to the American Red Cross, which ranked second with its collections of $479.9 million.
The American Cancer Society came in third by raising $426.7 million.
Emory University vaulted 50 notches to place among the top 10 for the first time. It ranked fourth after raising $415.4 million, becoming the leading college fund-raiser. It leaped ahead of No. 10 Stanford University, which raised $312.9 million, and No. 11 Harvard, which brought in $309.4 million.
The survey found that cultural groups, colleges and universities and community foundations reported the biggest increases in giving last year. It attributed the jump to a flood of multimillion-dollar donations from wealthy people who reaped big rewards in the booming economy and stock market.
Gifts to human services groups may have soared but organizers behind those agencies said they had a hard time persuading people to give, the survey reported.
Some groups said they had problems raising enough money to outpace inflation and many said they failed to attract large numbers of wealthy donors.
“As the economy seems to heat up and get more prosperous, it’s almost more difficult to get people to focus on giving,” said Ann Hewitt, resource development director for Arc of the United States, which works with retarded children.
“There isn’t the urgency when the basic temperature of the nation is good. Consequently, people don’t rush out to give.”
Arc ranked No. 107, with $68.2 million in donations.
Rounding out the top 10 charities were Catholic Charities, $386.5 million; Second Harvest, $351.4 million; YMCA of the USA, $340.3 million; Habitat for Humanity International, $334.7 million; Boys and Girls Clubs of America, $321.8 million; and Stanford.