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Economy helps boost charitable giving

Washington Post

WASHINGTON – After several years of making anemic contributions to charity, Americans’ donations to educational institutions, religious groups, social service agencies and other nonprofits rose 5 percent last year to $248.5 billion, according to a report released today. The annual report, by the Giving USA Foundation, found that – adjusted for inflation – charitable giving in the United States rose for the first time since 2000, when the booming stock market had sent giving soaring for several years.

“The economy is improving, and that shows up in the numbers,” said Eugene R. Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, which puts together the Giving USA report.

Religious institutions continued to receive the largest share of contributions last year – more than $88 billion in estimated contributions to churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious entities, or one-third of charitable contributions in the United States. Educational institutions got the next-biggest slice – $34 billion – while nonprofit health groups like hospitals received $22 billion, the report said.

All categories except two – international charities and human services organizations – saw growth last year.

Researchers said they were encouraged by the uptick in the overall numbers after several years of weak giving that failed to keep pace with inflation.

The growth was primarily due to healthy increases in donations from corporations and foundations, as well as increased bequests, Tempel said.

Donations by individuals, which account for the bulk of giving, rose just 4 percent last year, the report found.

Individual giving has yet to return to the heights of the late 1990s, when the hot stock market fueled philanthropy. In 1999, charitable giving as a percent of personal income reached 2.2 percent. Last year, it was 1.9 percent.

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