Americans donated $218 billion to charities, churches and other causes last year, a 4 percent increase over 2010, and a sign that purse strings are loosening after the recession.
Meanwhile, philanthropic foundations gave away $42 billion, up 2 percent, and corporate donations remained flat at about $14 billion.
The $24 billion left in bequests or willed to nonprofits jumped the most, by 12 percent. Total giving was a whopping $298 billion.
The figures were released last month in the annual Giving USA report, one of the nation's most comprehensive reports on philanthropy, compiled by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
"One thing that remains clear is that when it comes to charitable contributions, individual giving reigns,'' said James Yunker, chairman of the foundation.
"When you add together what is contributed to philanthropy through American households, bequests and family foundations, that piece of the ... pie for 2011 comes to 88 percent,'' he said.
The report indicates a positive future for American philanthropy. Total giving had plunged from a record high $310 billion in 2007 to $279 billion in 2009. It began to climb in 2010, gaining 3 percent, and then 4 percent last year.
The report, at www.givingusa.org, showed support for education, the arts, international affairs and health and human services continued to grow.
Likewise, umbrella organizations such as United Ways that collect donations and forward them to charities saw donations increase by 4 percent.
However, there were modest declines in funding to foundations and religious groups. The latter may reflect declining membership in mainline churches, the report suggests.
Yunker said the results show that "Americans are feeling better about their personal financial situations ... and that they feel philanthropy remains a core value worthy of support.''
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511