Generous giving continues to define and challenge Americans
BY JACK BROOKS AND FRANK ROBERT
MID-ATLANTIC UNITED METHODIST FOUNDATION
The Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University recently released their annual look at philanthropy in the United States, a survey done annually since 1956. The news for 2011 gives a snapshot of both the landscape of charitable donations and America’s generosity.
Last year $298.42 billion was donated in America. This was an increase of 4 percent from 2010's $286.91 billion. Of this giving, 73 percent came from individuals like you and me. Even when adding the huge dollars given each year by such organizations as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Buffett Foundation, and many other foundations in our area, individuals gave, in amounts both big and small, 73 percent of all donations last year. When all bequests and family foundations are added to this amount the total given by individuals was 88 percent.
The 2011 report shows some encouraging signs. Americans are continuing to give, they are feeling slightly more confident in doing so and they continue to believe in the mission of charitable organizations. While that is all good news, there is also the sobering news that in the last two years, while showing increases in giving, this represents the slowest economic post recession recovery in over 40 years. It's not surprising that as long as there is continued volatility in the economy, charitable giving will reflect this reality in the coming months and years ahead.
So how to look at this...and what does it mean for you and for me?
Well, it means that American individuals are committed to church and charity -- much more than corporations and more than the largest foundations -- by supporting the critical and essential work done by the more than 1.5 million charities in the U.S. to address global issues.
It means that individuals -- just like you -- have a voice in what gets done and how.
And it means that you can make change happen, with $10 or $100 or $1,000 or much more, and that the causes you care about are getting their work done because you make it possible.
Here is where American giving is coming from...
- Individuals represented, as noted above, 73 percent of total giving.
- Bequests (gifts in a will) were 8 percent of giving.
- Corporate giving (corporations and corporate foundations) was flat -- just 5 percent of the total.
- Charitable Foundation support was up but represents only 14 percent of the total.
... And where it's going:
- Education, which ranked second (far behind religion), was 13 percent of the total.
- Human Services was 12 percent of the total, an increase of 2.5 percent and the third highest total ever for this subsector.
- Health donations increased and were 8 percent of the total.
- International Affairs grew to 8 percent, partly due to the fact that more charities are working internationally, like the United Methodist Church, to address major disasters around the world.
- Public-Society benefit support was 7 percent. However, the three largest "Donor Advised Funds" in this group grew by an astounding 77 percent.
- Support of Arts, Culture and Humanities was 4 percent of the total.
- Giving to Environmental and Animal Welfare organizations increased to 3 percent of donations.
Of special note:
- Religion continued to be, as always, the largest of all subsectors and in 2011 was 32 percent of all giving. But 2011 was the second straight year showing decreases in the amount given to religious organizations, declining by 1.7 percent.
- Giving to Foundations decreased by 6.1 percent to 9 percent of the total.
So how do you fit in?
Most importantly is to recognize that you, and your family, truly make a difference with your generosity. Studies have shown that about one half of all donations are made by households with incomes under $100,000. Clearly every single donation contributes to making a difference.
Here are five tips to consider when deciding on support of your church for the rest of this year.
- Think about your church, and intentionally plan to support all areas of ministry including locally, regionally, nationally or even internationally.
- Look into the needs of your community that your church helps to address.
- Add church donations to your annual family budget, so your support can grow without straining your other needs; you can even set up a donation plan so your gift happens automatically on a monthly or quarterly basis.
- Give your children the habit of philanthropy by putting aside part of their allowance for tithing. Help them understand the meaning of good stewardship.
- Attend one of the Mid-Atlantic United Methodist Foundation's many seminars on the essentials of Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning, and Planned Giving. You can make a difference far into the future of The United Methodist Church; in fact, you'll find there are planned gifts that pay you on a regular basis. (Look into "charitable gift annuities" to learn more.)
After all, though giving is increasing, the need is great and it could take a decade or more to return to pre-recession giving levels. So take a look at where and how you want to help your church; there are lots of ways to get there by offering your time, special talent and financial support. Prayerfully consider, how are you making a difference to your church today?
To learn more, call the Mid-Atlantic United Methodist Foundation at 800-828-9093, Ext 247, or email Frank Robert.