Giving USA Results Make Splash in Nation’s Newspapers
The results of Giving USA’s annual report on American philanthropy were published today in papers across the country, and different headlines excitedly exclaimed Americans Set Record for Donations in 2006 (Washington Post); A Record $295 Billion for Charities (Los Angeles Times); and New Record: Americans Give $300 Billion to Charity (Chicago Tribune). The New York Times was decidedly less enthusiastic: Absence of Major Disaster in ‘06 Affected Giving. Stephanie Strom’s opening paragraph begins:
Although 2006 was heralded as the dawn of a golden age of philanthropy after Warren Buffett pledged his multibillion-dollar fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, charitable giving was almost flat last year.
A case of New York cynicism? While the Associated Press injects its article with words like "besting" "surge" and "new record," Strom reports that the lackluster growth in 2006 can be attributed to the absence of major disasters, which had boosted 2005 giving totals, and says that the one percent increase on an inflation-adjusted basis may be surprising to those that read about the year’s "mega-gifts," notably Buffett’s to the Gates Foundation.
Regardless of one’s take on the numbers, the numbers themselves paint a vivid picture of today’s philanthropic landscape. Once again, individuals contributed the most, by far, with a combined total of 83.4 percent of the $295.02 billion donated on 2006. Once again, religious organizations received the largest slice of the philanthropic pie, as 32.8% – $96.82 billion – went to them. Once again, the second largest piece ($40.98 billion) went to education.
Arts organizations received a surprising $12.51 billion, an increase of 6.5% over last year’s totals.
Companies gave less in 2006, dropping 10.5 percent to $12.72 billion, a decrease attributable to the fact that companies’ profits overall were less strong in 2006, and because corporations responded so generously to the natural disasters of 2005.
And however one feels about the numbers, we can still pat ourselves on the back: the United States remains the most charitable country, with Americans giving twice as much as Britain, the next most charitable country.