Last year, American companies and individuals gave more than $203 billion to charity–up 3.2 percent from 1999 in inflation-adjusted dollars–but some could afford to give more than they did.
A recent study showed that charitable giving doubled since 1990, when the $100 billion threshold was topped, according to the American Association of Fundraising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy.
However, last year’s increase was the smallest in five years, read Giving USA, a comprehensive annual report on charitable giving put out by the group.
Religious organizations, always the largest charitable sector, received 36.5 percent of all contributions, reaching $74.3 billion. The health sector reached the $18.9 billion mark.
Religious and health giving figures were up 0.9 and 1.4 percent respectively, while education was the slowest growing sector last year, down 0.7 percent from 1999.
Institutions including higher education, elementary schools, libraries and tutoring programs received $28.2 billion last year.
“Individual giving didn’t have the robust growth one would have hoped for,” Donald Eberly of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told the New York Times. In the long-term view, “we could and should have had higher contributions in the individual category, a type of giving that often reaches small-scale neighborhoods and spurs civic engagement,” he added.
A recent report by NewTithing Group, a San Francisco, Calif., philanthropic research organization, estimated that some Americans could have given twice as much to charity as they did, according to the Times.
Those with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million or more could have afforded to give 10 times more than their reported donations, while those with incomes under $50,000 were donating to charity as much as they could afford–an average of $661 a year, according to the study.
Corporate contributions came to $10.9 billion last year, up 5.4 percent. Corporations contributed 1.2 percent of their pre-tax profits to charity last year, the same proportion as in 1999.
The money given in 2000 represented only 2 percent of the gross domestic product, a slight drop from 2.1 percent in 1999.
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.