Philanthropic giving in the USA increased for the third straight year in 2012, but only modestly.
Overall giving in 2012 totaled $316.23 billion, an increase in current dollars of 3.5 percent over 2011. Adjusted for inflation, the increase is just 1.5 percent. That’s the finding presented in Giving USA 2013, the report researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and just released by the Giving USA Foundation™.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dr. Patrick M. Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He asserts that, at current growth rates, it would take at least six years for a return to pre-recession giving when adjusted for inflation. He anticipates growth will indeed continue to be slow since the overall economic recovery is slow.
For more than half-a-century, giving has hovered at two percent of Gross Domestic Product. When GDP grows strongly, giving is robust. When GDP growth is sluggish, so is philanthropy. With many economists predicting 2013 GDP growth of just 1.9 percent, Rooney’s prediction seems entirely reasonable.
Here are some highlights from the report:
–2012 saw marked year-over-year growth in corporate giving (12.2 percent in current dollars), which is strongly linked to companies’ profits. For 2012, corporate pre-tax profits surged upward 16.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
–Uncertainty fueled by mixed economic indicators may have moderated giving by individuals, who historically account for the largest percentage of total giving. Positive trends, such as the 13.4 percent increase in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index between 2011 and 2012, the slight rise in home values, and overall lower unemployment rates and fuel costs, were combined with budget concerns and tax reform discussions. In addition, personal disposable income rose 3.3 percent and personal consumption expenditures rose 3.6 percent last year, virtually mirroring the growth in individual giving (3.9 percent in current dollars).
–Giving by individuals rose to $228.93 billion in 2012, an estimated 3.9 percent increase (1.9 percent adjusted for inflation). Income and wealth are key drivers of household giving, as is a sense of financial security. Giving by taxpayers who itemize their gifts represented 81 percent of the total donated by individuals in 2012.
–Giving by bequest decreased an estimated 7.0 percent in 2012 (8.9 percent adjusted for inflation) to $23.41 billion. Itemizing estates contributed 78 percent of the total, or $18.31 billion. Bequest giving tends to be volatile from year to year, as it is highly influenced by very large gifts from estates that closed during that year. For example, Rooney explains that if we remove one exceptionally large bequest from the 2011 numbers, we find that bequest giving was close to the same in 2012 and 2011 when adjusted for inflation. So, the big dip in 2012 should not set off alarm bells. With real estate values and stock portfolios rebounding, the future for bequest giving is encouraging.
–Giving by corporations rose 12.2 percent in 2012 (9.9 percent adjusted for inflation), to an estimated $18.15 billion, including gifts from both corporations and their foundations. The two entities provide cash, in-kind donations and grants. Increasing the 2012 total was the estimated $131 million corporations gave to nonprofits working on relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
–Giving by foundations increased 4.4 percent (2.3 percent adjusted for inflation) to an estimated $45.74 billion in 2012, according to figures provided by the Foundation Center. Giving by community foundations grew 9.1 percent last year, which helped to bolster the total. Operating and independent foundations increased grant making by 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. While stock values increased in 2012, foundations often use a multi-year rolling average when valuing their portfolios. Therefore, as stock values continue to climb, we should see stronger future growth in foundation giving.
–Looking at foundation giving, 45 percent comes from family foundations where a member of the family continues to be actively involved in running the foundation. In a sense, these organizations blur the line between foundation and individual giving. Giving by family foundations can often be very relationship driven as with individual giving.
While the data provides a number of interesting insights about the charitable behavior of Americans, it also hints at serious warnings, according to a panel of experts that gathered in Philadelphia to present the Giving USA findings. The panelists included Jon Biedermann, Vice President of DonorPerfect; Robert Evans, Founder and Managing Director of The EHL Consulting Group; Eileen R. Heisman, ACFRE, President and CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust; and Rooney. Here are their warnings: