2013 set records for charitable giving

If you’re waiting for a rising tide of charitable giving, you may already have missed it.

Charitable giving in the U.S. reached an all-time high of $416 billion in 2013, according to the Atlas of Giving’s latest report on giving in the last 12 months, an increase of 13.3% over 2012. Looking ahead, the Atlas projects giving growth of just 4 percent for 2014.

The 2013 Atlas of Giving report was released today, via a live stream announcement featuring Rob Mitchell of the Atlas.

Giving to philanthropies that receive most of their gifts from major donors and foundation grants grew the most. Human services received 19.1 percent more gifts and grants than in 2012. Environmental organizations saw giving grow by 18.5 percent. That’s because a booming stock market and recovering real estate caused a huge jump in the value of assets, according to Mitchell.

Religious organizations did not fare as well, reflecting their reliance on the current incomes of less affluent donors. With employment high and wages flat, giving to religion rose just 8.8 percent.

Looking ahead, you still have a chance to claim a piece of 2013’s stock market gains via foundation grants, Mitchell suggested in an online panel discussion following his presentation. Foundations must pay out five percent of their asset bases. Those asset values are taken from the end of the prior fiscal years. That timing creates a built-in lag between a stock surge and foundation giving.

The Atlas bases its monthly estimates of giving, released on the 21st of each month, on correlations among dozens of economic factors and charitable giving. The same analysis enables them to forecast future giving from individuals, foundations, corporations and bequests. The Atlas does not consider nonprofit incomes from government or earned revenues, which still constitute by far the largest sources of overall income to charities in the US.

DAY 2 UPDATE: Giving USA slams Atlas of Giving

The Chronicle of Philanthropy story on the Atlas of Giving report quotes Patrick Rooney, associate dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy as calling the Atlas report “fallacious, simplistic and wrong.”  There’s some feisty back-and-forth between Rooney and Rob Mitchell in the  comments.

The School of Philanthropy issues the “Giving USA” report based mainly on a survey of actual itemized tax returns filed for the year. Because they must wait for these to be filed and processed, the annual “Giving USA” comes out in June of the following  year.

Is the Atlas algorithm more accurate than the Giving Well survey? I have no way of knowing. It’s definitely more timely, and therefore more useful to planning (but only if it’s accurate!). “Giving USA” represents the stately pace and principled search for truth of the university, while the Atlas reflects the need for speed and focus on results  of the private sector.

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