Minnesotans donated $4.1 billion to charities and causes in 2012, up from $3.9 billion the previous year, according to the Minnesota Council of Foundation's annual survey of charitable giving released Thursday.

State foundations and corporations kicked in another $1.6 billion. The combined $5.7 billion represented a 2 percent increase over the previous year.

The figures show a steady rise in giving since 2007, when the recession put a damper on donations. Although individual giving by Minnesotans remains strong — the highest in actual dollars since 2008 — it still has not reached prerecession levels when adjusted for inflation.

"We are back to prerecession giving for foundations but not yet for individuals," said Trista Harris, council president. "Foundation assets have bounced back as the economy as bounced back.

"But individual donors are still a little gun-shy. As people feel more and more comfortable about the economy, we'll see a greater increase."

The "Giving in Minnesota" report is based on financial information from individual tax returns, as well as corporate and foundation giving programs from 2012, the latest information available.

Education received the largest share of grant dollars, 29 percent, followed by human services at 23 percent. Civic and community improvements received 16 percent, and arts and humanities 13 percent. About 10 percent of funds went to health care nonprofits.

Animal/environmental issues, religion and international projects trailed at the bottom of the list, receiving less than 5 percent each.

The report found that more than half of corporate and foundation funding went to projects in other states and countries. Forty-seven percent of Minnesota grant dollars went out of state, and another 6 percent went to international causes.

The geographically diverse donations reflect the scope of business of Minnesota-based corporations, said Harris. Target Foundation for example, funds public schools across the country, she said.

Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said the survey results mean good news to the state's large nonprofit community.

"The foundations are back as full players, and hopefully they will be able to think more long-term about their giving," he said. "Many foundations discontinued multiyear grants when their assets went down during the recession."