Americans donated an estimated $373 billion in 2015, breaking last year’s record for charitable giving to schools, churches, social services and more.
Individuals contributed the lion’s share, with $264 billion coming out of Americans’ credit cards and bank accounts, according to Giving USA 2016, an annual report on the state of U.S. philanthropy.
Foundations contributed $58 billion. Charitable bequests reached $31 billion. And corporate giving totaled $18 billion.
The report, released Tuesday, showed total giving climbed $14 billion over 2014.
“It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them,” said Giving USA Foundation Chairman W. Keith Curtis, president of Curtis Group consulting. “Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before.”
The annual report, a publication of the Giving USA Foundation, is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. It found:
• International affairs organizations saw the biggest growth in donations, jumping 17 percent to $15 billion. The boom was fueled in part by giving to the Syrian refugee crisis, an earthquake in Nepal and other major disasters.
• Education funding, for everything from early childhood learning to college scholarships, grew by 9 percent. That increase was spurred in part by several large gifts to colleges and universities, the report said.
• Arts and humanities funding grew 7 percent, providing money for theaters, museums, art collections, concert halls and more.
• Environmental and animal donations — to support everything from local humane societies to fighting climate change — grew by more than 6 percent.
At the same time, health care spending eked up just 1 percent, and donations to churches, mosques and other religious institutions moved up less than 3 percent.
Giving to foundations was the only category where donations decreased, by nearly 4 percent.
A couple economic factors may be driving the continued boom in charitable giving, said researchers. The nation’s overall economy continues to recover from the recession, and household finances seem to be stabilizing.
For example, growth in personal disposable income and corporate pretax profits was a likely influence in the giving.
The report does not provide a state-by-state analysis of giving. But Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said it overall means good news for Minnesota’s 3,500-strong nonprofit community.
“More money makes more possible,” said Pratt.
But Minnesota’s nonprofit sector is not benefiting uniformly from the growth in giving, he said. At least two nonprofits serving children have sent him letters in recent weeks, saying they were closing their doors because of lack of funding. Meanwhile, several larger nonprofits, such as Washburn Center for Children, have enjoyed successful capital campaigns, he said.