A deeper look at the latest U.S. giving numbers and their global implications

A sign of a modestly recovering economy may be reflected in the fact that giving in the United States has steadily grown across all sectors in the nonprofit industry. Most charitable sub-sectors were processing donations in a more rapid rate in 2013 than they were in the years prior. The economic recession that began in 2007 struck the core of nonprofits and dropped more than 17 percent between 2007 and 2009, the NonProfit Quarterly reported, citing Giving USA statistics.

The decline in giving reversed direction in 2013 after domestic donations grew by 3 percent. The majority of that growth in giving was from individual contributors too, as 68 percent of the donations were awarded by single benefactors. On a broader scale, 72 percent of the total $335.17 billion in overall contributions were made by individuals as well. Conversely, corporations, which are typically associated with giving larger quantities, gave just 5 percent of the total amount - a nearly 2 percent decline from the year prior. 

Amount per organization varies
Although the giving for every type of organization increased across the board, some sectors saw slightly more success in terms of donation processing than their counterparts. According to Giving USA, religious-based groups saw roughly 31 percent of the overall contributions last year. The remainder of gifts went as follows:

  • Education - 16 percent
  • Human services - 12 percent
  • Gifts to foundations - 11 percent
  • Health - 10 percent
  • Public-society benefit - 7 percent
  • Arts, culture and humanities - 5 percent
  • International affairs - 4 percent
  • Environmental/animals - 3 percent
  • Gifts to individuals - 1 percent

Giving USA also found that the education, human services, foundations, health and environmental/animals sub-sectors all surpassed giving levels realized prior to the heart of the recession. 

Willingness to help drives global giving
It's evident that nonprofit contributions are on the rise in the U.S., and the recent boost in generosity saw it reclaim the world's top spot on the 2013 World Giving Index ranking - a position it's traded with Australia for the past three years. Canada, Myanmar and New Zealand all tied for second while Australia fell to the 7th rank.

The predominantly Buddhist nation of Myanmar raised lots of eyebrows with its second highest rank, but the Charities Aid Foundation - the organization that annually compiles the World Giving Index - found that 80 percent of the southeast Asian nation's citizens regularly gave to a good cause. 

While there's no direct correlation between the increases in giving in the U.S. and giving around the rest of the globe, CAF did find that the rest of the world became more generous last year. The average percentage of people donating money, volunteering time and helping a stranger all grew last year. 

CAF chief executive John Low said developing economies are showing a surge in giving and volunteering as well. 

"These rapidly developing countries have the potential to have a massive positive impact both in their local communities and internationally through their giving," he said. "It's important that governments and charities in these countries work together to harness the giving potential of these growing middle classes to create an even greater charitable culture in these booming economies."

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