American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, according to “Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018.” Charitable giving is now influenced by changing economic and tax policy trends. According to Giving USA, total contributions grew by 0.7% in current dollars in 2018 but declined 1.7% when adjusted for inflation, which amounts to neutral growth.
The U.S., however, remains one of the world’s most generous nations, ranking fourth out of 140 nations on the World Giving Index. The National Philanthropic Trust reports that 70% of donations were made by private individuals.
Americans also rank high in terms of time volunteered to support charitable causes. An astonishing 63 million people volunteered their time for a total of 7.9 billion hours per year, amounting to $184 billion worth of service.
Nonprofits around the country were affected by complex changes in tax policy and turbulence in the stock market. The stock market did, however, see strong growth overall in 2018. One important change initiated by the new tax law affected the drop in the number of individuals and households who itemized various types of deductions on their tax returns. The new federal tax policy doubled the standard deduction, causing approximately 16 million to 20 million households to switch from itemized deductions.
Nonetheless, key giving categories performed well in 2018. Charitable equests accounted for 9% of the $427.1 billion total, marking four successive years of $30 billion-plus in planned giving.
Giving by foundations and corporations accounted for the balance. Both categories experienced healthy growth in 2018.
On the subject of philanthropy, it is important to note the wealthiest of Americans are sharing their wealth.
In 2010 Bill Gates and Warren Buffett partnered in a campaign called The Giving Pledge in which they challenged their billionaire peers to pledge to give away half their wealth. The $500 billion in pledges is now supported by 204 mega-wealthy philanthropists from 23 countries.
Central Nebraska residents have historically posted the highest per capita giving level in the state.
In this holiday giving season local needs will be met by those willing to give generously of their time and treasure to a wide variety of worthy nonprofits and causes.