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New report: donations to charities in the U.S. rose slightly in 2016

NEW YORK – donations to charities in the United States increased in 2016 — but only a little bit, according to the latest comprehensive report on Americans’ giving patterns.

The Giving USA report, released Tuesday, said the giving of individuals, estates, foundations and corporations to an estimated $390 billion in 2016. That was 2.7 percent in the current dollar (1.4 percent, adjusted for inflation) of the estimate of $379.89 billion in 2015.

Of the nine charitable sectors identified in the report, the largest increase in 2016, percentage-wise, was for the environment and animal welfare organisations. Giving to this sector, adjusted for inflation, rose by 5.8 percent to slightly more than $11 billion.

As usual, the largest part of the donations — nearly $123 billion euros — went to religious organizations, although the increase for this sector was modest at 1.8 per cent.

“This report tells us that the Americans stayed well in 2016, despite the fact that it is a year characterized by economic and political uncertainty,” said Aggie Sweeney, the chairman of Giving USA Foundation. “We saw growth in every major sector, with an indication of the resilience of philanthropy and the various motivations of the donors.”

Still, Americans’ level of generosity is not higher than it was decades ago. For 2016, giving individuals represented 2 percent of the total disposable income — down from 2.4 percent in 2000, and is the same as the rate in 1976. Also, the total donations have hovered around 2 percent of the gross domestic product for many years; for 2016, that figure was 2.1 percent.

Corporate giving as a percentage of the pre-tax corporate income, was 0.8 percent in 2016, less than half the figure of 2 per cent in 1986.

There is great uncertainty in the charity sector how philanthropy might be affected by a scheduled overhaul of the federal tax code, and possible cuts in the budget proposed by President Donald Trump.

“Most in the industry agree that the reduction of the rates of income tax and increasing the standard deduction would reduce charitable giving,” said Una Osili, director of research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“The sector largely think that charity can not only fill the gaps created by the planned austerity measures, but beyond that, consensus is more difficult to assess,” she said in an e-mail. “The cuts would affect the different types of charity different, because a number of charities rely more heavily on the government.”

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy researches and writes the annual Statement of the US-reports, which are published by the Giving USA Foundation.

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