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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Giving to religious congregations rises to $88 billion

Religion News Service

Donations to religious congregations in the United States rose by nearly 2 percent last year, to an estimated $88 billion, according to a new study.

The Giving USA Foundation annual report divides contributions into 10 categories, including the arts, international aid and education. But the category called “religious organizations” outpaced them all, as it traditionally does.

“It reflects how important religion is to Americans,” said Richard Jolly, vice chair of Giving USA.

Of all the giving categories, religion, he said, is “probably the closest” to donors because it impacts them as individuals.

Charitable contributions overall were at a record high last year, increasing by 5 percent to an estimated $248.5 billion.

Most donations flowing to the year’s biggest disaster, the Dec. 26 Asian tsunami, will be included with figures for 2005. In 2004, tsunami relief represented less than half of 1 percent of all contributions.

The Giving USA report includes contributions from foundations, corporations, individual donors and bequests. Individuals gave 76 percent of the total.

“Religious organizations” include donations made to individual congregations, national offices of religious groups and religious media. Donations to faith-based groups that provide education, health care and other services are tallied with other sectors.

The Giving USA report is compiled annually by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. It is based on surveys of organizations, information from research institutions, tax data and government estimates of economic indicators.