Despite the immense health and economic challenges the world faced in 2020, and a significant portion of the country being involved in some level of protesting about systemic racism, inequality as well as police reform, the latest annual report from the Giving USA Foundation finds that Americans did not cease supporting their communities and fellow citizens.
According to the report, Americans donated a record $471 billion to charity in 2020, a 3.8 percent increase from 2019. These increases were particularly noticeable for organizations that offer social services, support people in need, and work to protect civil rights. These totals were released this week by Giving USA, which has tracked total charitable giving in the U.S. for over 60 years and is a collaborative effort of Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy.
Giving by individuals in 2020 totaled a record $324.1 billion, up 2.2 percent (1 percent, adjusted for inflation), even as its share of total giving remained below 70 percent for the third consecutive year. Giving by foundations jumped 17 percent (15.6 percent), to an estimated $88.55 billion, while bequests increased 10.3 percent (9 percent), to $41.91 billion. By contrast, cash and in-kind corporate giving fell 6.1 percent (-7.3 percent), to $16.88 billion.
Seven of the nine charitable sectors saw growth in 2020. Public-society benefit (15.7%) and environment/animals (11.6%) led the way with double-digit growth. Not far behind were human services (9.7%), international affairs (9.1%) and education (9%). There was positive two-year growth for all nine subsectors. This was critical to sustaining many organizations during turbulent times.
"In some ways, 2020 is a story of uneven impact and uneven recovery. Many wealthier households were more insulated from the effects of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic shock, and they may have had greater capacity to give charitably than households and communities that were disproportionately affected and struggled financially," said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "Similarly, growth in the S&P 500 in recent years and the market recovery in 2020 positioned foundations to respond to the year's challenges, with the result that giving by foundations reached its largest-ever share of total giving, at 19 percent. Still, for many people and communities, the need remained great throughout the year and beyond."
Confronted by adversity, we have seen time and again that the world unites and helps those most impacted. Charitable giving is now seen as a component of unity and togetherness. Our history shows that whether in the wake of 9/11 and the Great Recession, during an economic downturn or a global health pandemic, or in response to natural disasters or racial and social justice movements, Americans demonstrate their philanthropy.
"Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020." Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy report 06/15/2021.
"Giving USA 2021: In a year of unprecedented events and challenges, charitable giving reached a record $471.44 billion in 2020." Giving USA and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy press release 06/15/2021.