Americans Give $241 Billion To Charity In 2003

Americans Give $241 Billion To Charity In 2003

News story posted in Demographics on 8 July 2004| comments
audience: National Publication | last updated: 18 May 2011


The AAFRC Trust For Philanthropy, which is the educational and research initiative of the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, has released Giving USA 2004, its annual report on charitable giving by American individiuals, estates, foundations, and corporations. The report concludes that Americans gave $240.72 billion during 2003, a 2.8% (or 0.5% inflation adjusted) increase from 2002 and the highest growth since 2000.
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AAFRC Trust Press Releases

American individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations gave an estimated $240.72 billion to charitable causes in 2003, according to Giving USA 2004, a study released by Giving USA Foundation. This is an increase of 2.8 percent over a revised estimate of $234.09 billion for 2002. This is the highest rate of growth seen since 2000. Adjusted for inflation, 2003 giving rose 0.5 percent from 2002, slightly below the inflation-adjusted growth rate of 0.6 percent from 2001 to 2002. Giving USA, the annual report on philanthropy, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of the Trust for Philanthropy of the American Association of Fundraising Counsel (AAFRC). The study is researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Since 1998, charitable giving has been 2 percent or more of gross domestic product (GDP) following more than two decades below that mark. For 2003, total contributions are estimated to be 2.2 percent of GDP. The all-time high was 2.3 percent of GDP in 2000.

"People are motivated to give because they value the cause, whether it is religion, education, health care, or international relief," said Henry (Hank) Goldstein, chair of Giving USA Foundation. "Charitable giving above 2 percent of gross domestic product is one demonstration of our nation's renewed commitment to the good works done by charities and congregations."

As part of the estimating procedure, Giving USA surveys nonprofit organizations about how much they received. For 2003, 55 percent of responding charities in the Giving USA survey reported an increase in charitable contributions in 2003 compared to 2002, 8 percent reported virtually no change and only 37 percent reported a decline in gifts. This is an improvement over 2002, when surveyed organizations were split nearly 50/50 between increases and decreases in contributions.

"In general, charities rely on philanthropic support for about one-fifth of their funding. For some groups, such as religious congregations and United Ways, gifts are often the only source of money," said John J. Glier, chair of the American Association of Fundraising Counsel. "Growth in giving means that organizations can do more to meet needs in our communities."

Giving USA presents the "big picture" showing four sources of charitable giving and allocation of gifts among nine types of recipient organizations. Among the surprising findings for 2003:

  • Gifts received through bequest in 2003 are estimated to have increased 12.8 percent to $21.60 billion from a revised estimate for 2002 of $19.15 billion. Adjusted for inflation, this is growth of 10.3 percent. Bequest gifts represent 9.0 percent of the 2003 total estimated giving. The increase is surprising because of concerns raised about lower bequests as the estate tax started phasing out in 2001. It occurred because charitable bequests increased in value as household net worth rose by an estimated 6.9 percent (4.3 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2003 and because of the distribution of some very large estates.
  • Giving to health organizations rose an estimated 10.7 percent (8.2 percent adjusted for inflation). Health is one of the largest subsectors, and both Giving USA and the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy found a decline in health giving for 2002. More than 60 percent of health organizations responding to the Giving USA survey for 2003 reported increased contributions received compared to 2002.
  • Giving to the arts, culture, and humanities subsector grew an estimated 7.3 percent (4.9 percent adjusted for inflation), reflecting increased charitable receipts at all sizes of arts organizations in the Giving USA survey.

"Through its estimates of national changes by type of donor and by type of recipient, Giving USA reports key indicators for the nonprofit sector," said Eugene R. Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. "Nonprofit organizations use Giving USA's findings to benchmark their fundraising results for the year and to plan for the future."

In order to provide the most timely information possible about charitable contributions, Giving USA develops initial estimates annually, two years before the IRS releases giving data from tax returns filed for that year. Giving USA revises earlier years' findings using final data from the Internal Revenue Service when they are released. For 2002, Giving USA now estimates $234.09 billion in total charitable contributions. The revised figure for 2002 is based on 2001 IRS data for charitable deductions claimed by individuals and corporations and released in spring 2004. This revised Giving USA estimate for 2002 is 2.9 percent ($6.83 billion) lower than amount of the initial estimate released last summer. The 2001 IRS data were lower than Giving USA's estimates for charitable deductions for individuals and corporations.

Giving USA's annual estimates are based on original surveys of organizations and econometric studies using tax data, government estimates for economic indicators, and information from other research institutions. Sources of data used in the estimates include the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, The Foundation Center, INDEPENDENT SECTOR, the Council for Aid to Education, the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, and the National Council of Churches of Christ.

Giving USA estimates the percentage of change in giving to subsectors (health, arts, education, religion, etc.). Except for religion, these estimates are developed by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University using data from a survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at Indiana University. The rates of change for 2003 are based on complete responses received from 1,369 organizations.

A Note about Inflation Adjustments
Inflation-adjusted rates of change are based on estimates that are calculated using a Bureau of Labor Statistics converter, which rounds to two decimal points. When comparing the inflation-adjusted rates of change to rates of change in current dollars, the difference between the two is not a constant 2.2 percentage points (the rate of inflation used in the BLS converter for 2003). This is a by-product of the rounding and is not due to the use of a different measure of inflation or an error in calculation.

Data for 1963 through 2003 are available on request. The data show sources of contributions by year in current and inflation-adjusted dollars and allocation of gifts by type of recipient organization, also in current and inflation-adjusted dollars. Data are also available showing total giving as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product; individual giving as a percentage of personal income; and corporate giving as a percentage of corporate pre-tax profits.

The preferred citation for Giving USA is: Giving USA, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

For scholarly citations, the preferred form is the style recommended by the American Psychological Association for an annual periodical without an editor, as follows: Giving USA. (2004).

Giving USA Foundation is the business name of the AAFRC Trust For Philanthropy, which is the educational and research initiative of the American Association of Fundraising Counsel.

The complete Giving USA 2004 report, with data covering giving in 2003, will be available in July 2004. Giving USA Foundation also publishes a quarterly newsletter, Giving USA Update. Both may be ordered by calling 1-888-5-GIVING (1-888-544-8464) or by downloading an order form from Giving USA 2004 (with data for 2003) is $65. Giving USA Presentation on CD is $135. Giving USA book and subscription to the Update is $125. Giving USA book, subscription to the Update, and Presentation on CD is $195. Single issues of Giving USA Update are $35. Costs do not include shipping and handling. All orders must be prepaid.


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