Amid high inflation and economic uncertainty, charitable giving in America fell by 3.4% last year to $499.3 billion — the lowest level since 1995, according to a new report from Giving USA.
When adjusted for inflation, that's a 10.5% decrease in the amount of disposable income Americans were willing or able to share with worthy causes.
According to Axios, charities geared toward education, the environment and human services all felt the pinch in 2022, as Americans struggled to afford groceries and pay for gas.
Human services organizations saw an 8% drop, when adjusted for inflation, and charitable contributions to animal and environmental organizations dropped by 8.9%, the report found. Donations to educational organizations fell by 10.7%, while religious organizations experienced a 2.6% decrease.
The report found that Americans gave 1.7% of their personal disposable income to charity last year, which is the lowest level they've given in nearly three decades.
"Drops in the stock market and high inflation caused many households to make tough decisions about their charitable giving for the year," Giving USA Foundation Chair Josh Birkholz said in a press release. "But despite uncertain economic times, Americans demonstrated how essential they view the nonprofit sector and its ability to solve big problems — by still giving nearly half a trillion dollars in 2022."
The Hill reported that, in current dollars, charitable giving increased in 2022 in three out of four categories; adjusted for inflation, however, all four categories fell.
While individual giving declined by 6.4%, giving by corporations increased by 3.4%, giving by foundations increased by 2.5% and giving by bequests increased by 2.3%. When adjusted for inflation, all decreased.
"I'm encouraged at how resilient we are despite economic uncertainty," Birkholz told Axios. "People still show up and give."
For decades, experts have observed that contribution totals have been rising, even as the number of Americans giving has been decreasing.
Birkholz told Axios that trend could suggest the wealthy are giving the most.
According to the report, large donations by some of the wealthiest individuals made up nearly 5% of individual giving for the second consecutive year and "mega-giving" from six individuals and couples totaled $13.96 billion.
Una Osili, the associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, told The Hill that many households appeared stable, noting that "we did not see job losses or an increase in unemployment the way we did in the Great Recession.
"However, households tend to give when they are financially and economically secure — and the inflationary pressures meant that fewer households had extra to give. In addition, donors may not have been as compelled to respond to immediate needs as they had been during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic or during the Great Recession."
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