Total philanthropic giving in 2011 was $298.42 billion, up from a revised estimate of $286.91 billion for 2010.
While the uptick of 4.0 percent in giving in current dollars is positive news, it represents an increase of just 0.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. At this rate of growth, it will take more than a decade for giving to return to its pre-recession 2007 level, according to Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center on Philanthropy. Rooney was in Philadelphia to present the major findings of the report. Rooney stated:
The estimates for giving in 2011 are encouraging, but they demonstrate that charities still face ongoing challenges. In the past two years, charitable giving has experienced its second slowest recovery following any recession since 1971.”
Giving in 2012 and 2013 is likely to experience the same slow growth as we saw in 2011. On the same day that Rooney was in Philadelphia, the U.S. Federal Reserve issued its multi-year forecast of change in Gross Domestic Product. The Fed projects GDP will continue to grow at a modest rate. For 2012, the projected GDP growth rate is 2.2 percent. For 2013, the Fed projects GDP growth of 2.5 percent. This is important news for all Americans, particularly those in the nonprofit sector.
In 2011, giving was 2 percent of GDP. Since giving has been tracked, philanthropy has always been about 2 percent of GDP. If this correlation rate continues, the nonprofit sector can expect continued slow growth in philanthropy in 2012 and 2013 as GDP is projected to grow only modestly.
Once again, the majority of philanthropic dollars came from Individuals, who accounted for 73 percent of total giving, the same percentage as the prior year. If Bequest and Family Foundation giving is included, the percentage would be 88 percent.
Individual giving as a percentage of disposable personal income remained at 1.9 percent in 2011, the same as in 2009 and 2010; this is far below the high of 2.4 percent achieved in 2005.
The report estimates estate giving at $24.41 billion in 2011, a 12.2 percent increase over 2010 (8.8 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars). Bequest giving represented 8 percent of total giving. Two-thirds of Americans with a will have included a charitable bequest provision, according to Robert I. Evans, Founder and Managing Director of EHL Consulting Group, who co-presented with Rooney. Fluctuations in bequest giving in recent years are primarily due to the major changes in real estate and stock portfolio values. Rooney also observed that the 300 wealthiest deceased individuals determine whether bequest giving goes up or down.