Charitable Giving in the U.S. Rose 5.1% Last Year to a Record High of $471 Billion in 2020

Total charitable giving grew 5.1% over 2019, as individuals, bequests, foundations, and corporations funneled an estimated $471.44 billion to U.S. charities, according to the Annual Report on Philanthropy, released this week by Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report on the sources and uses of charitable giving in America.

“Unprecedented developments in 2020 created widespread need and significantly increased the demand upon nonprofit organizations,” said Laura MacDonald, CFRE, chair of Giving USA Foundation. “Remarkably, generous giving coupled with the stock market turnaround in the final months of the year boosted contributions. As a result, 2020 is the highest year of charitable giving on record.”

“Growth in the S&P 500 in recent years and the market recovery in 2020 positioned foundations to respond to the year’s challenges, with the result that giving by foundations reached its largest-ever share of total giving, at 19 percent,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which conducted the research for the Giving Institute’s report.

By the end of 2020, the S&P 500, which is closely related to giving, grew 16.3%, and personal income, a factor that is significantly linked to individual giving, grew 6.1%. Giving by foundations skyrocketed, and giving by individuals and bequests also showed growth.

“As we have seen in earlier years that included national crises or economic recessions, donors responded to urgent needs, and large-scale gifts as well as giving to COVID-19 relief and the racial justice movement helped drive the growth in individual and total charitable giving in 2020,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“Nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals played a role with significant innovation in fundraising methods and donor outreach in order to raise greater financial support under difficult circumstances. In addition, we saw a wide range of more informal philanthropic responses by individuals in 2020, including mutual aid efforts and person-to-person giving.”