US giving increased by 2.7% to an estimated $260.3 billion in 2005, capturing an estimated 2.1% of GDP. This total includes giving by individuals, corporations and foundations. Individuals give away most of this money: $199 billion in 2005, or 76.5 % of all giving. Bequests added up to another $17.44 billion.
Corporations greatly increased their giving in 2005, up 22.5%, to $13.77 billion.
Foundations gave away $30 billion in 2005, or 11.5% of all giving. This is a 5.6% increase over 2004. The Foundation Center attributes this increase to a growth in the number of foundations and the rise in the stock market in 2004.
About half of the increase in giving was a result of donations in response to three natural disasters - the tsunami, the Gulf Coast hurricanes and the earthquake in Pakistan. When disaster gifts are excluded, donations were about even with 2004, after inflation.
Since 1998, charitable giving has been above 2% of GDP. This follows more than two decades where it was below this mark. The rise is not evenly distributed; especially small charities still face difficulties.
A large part of individual giving goes to religious organizations, which received $93.2 billion in 2005.
There are currently more than 68,000 grant-making foundations in the US, compared to only 22,000 in the early 1980s.
The list of the nation's ten wealthiest foundations is headed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a $29.1 billion in assets, followed by the Ford Foundation ($11.6 billion) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ($9.1 billion). In coming years, the Gates Foundation's spending power is expected to increase by at least $31 billion, due to Warren Buffett's commitment to transfer the bulk of his fortune to the Gates Foundation.
When the current assets of the Gates Foundation are combined with Warren Buffett's pledge, the foundation has enough money to be the 55th largest economy in the world, larger than the gross domestic product of such oil-rich nations as Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya.
Sources: The Foundation Center; "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" July 20, 2006; Giving USA, Published by the Giving Institute (AAFRC.org).