FaithWorld

Americans gave $291 billion to charity in 2010, more than 1/3 to religious groups

June 22, 2011

(A man dressed as Santa Claus from the Volunteers of America charity waits for donations near the Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York December 19, 2007/Ray Stubblebine)

U.S. donations to charity rose to $291 billion last year, but it was still more than 6 percent below a 2007 record as the nation struggles to recover from its worst recession in decades.  Americans gave nearly 4 percent more in 2010 compared to 2009, the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said,  perking up after the recession sparked the biggest giving slump in four decades.

Religious groups accounted for the largest single recipient class by far, receiving more than one third of total donations, according to the study released on Monday.

Revised estimates by the study, which started in 1956, showed that during the financial crisis giving fell more than $10 billion in 2008 to $299.8 billion and then dropped more than 6 percent in 2009 to $280.3 billion.

Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, said that giving in 2010 grew by 2.1 percent after adjusting for inflation. “But the sobering reality is that many nonprofits are still hurting, and if giving continues to grow at that rate, it will take five to six more years just to return to the level of giving we saw before the Great Recession,” he said.

More than a third of donations go to religious groups, while education accounts for 14 percent, giving to foundations makes up 11 percent, human services receives 9 percent, health picks up 8 percent and public society groups 8 percent. Arts and culture groups got 5 percent of the total, along with international affairs, which includes relief, development and public policy initiatives. Environmental and animal groups picked up 2 percent, and another 2 percent went to individuals, most often in the form of medications. Donations that cannot be attributed to any one particular sector make up the last 1 percent.

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