The pandemic has propelled the United States by giving to the highest level in 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a tremendous year of giving, new donation data shows. In total, Americans gave $ 471.44 billion to charity. Charitable giving grew 5.1% in 2020 (or 3.8% after adjusting for inflation), making it the highest year on record for charitable giving. During one of the most difficult years in recent memory, numbers show Americans have responded to unprecedented needs caused by public health and economic crises. Giving USA’s annual charitable giving report tracked combined national giving in 2020. Here are some highlights from the recent report:

  • Donations from individuals increased by a modest 2.2% (or 1% after adjusting for inflation) totaling approximately $ 324.10 billion and accounting for 69% of all donations.
  • Donations from foundations increased by 17% (or 15.6% after adjusting for inflation) to an estimated amount of $ 88.55 billion and representing 19% of all donations. This includes grants awarded by independent, community and operational foundations.
  • Donations by bequest increased by 10.3% (or 9% after adjusting for inflation) to $ 41.91 billion and representing 9% of all donations.
  • Corporate donations fell 6.1% (or 7.3% after adjusting for inflation) to about $ 16.88 billion, or 4% of all donations.
  • Giving to religion has remained stable with contributions estimated at $ 131.08 billion. Even though many faith groups were unable to meet for much of 2020, faith-based organizations remain the primary destination for donations. It represented 28% of all contributions.
  • Donations for education increased by 9% (or 7.7% after adjusting for inflation) to $ 71.34 billion, with the second-highest donation category accounting for 15% of all contributions.
  • Donations to human services increased 9.7% (or 8.4% after adjusting for inflation) to $ 65.14 billion, with the third highest category comprising 14% of total grants.
  • Donations to donor foundations also remained stable with approximately $ 58.17 billion in contributions, the fourth highest donation category accounting for 12% of total donations.
  • Will give public utility organizations, international affairs and environmental / animal organizations increased, while donations health and arts, culture and humanities everything fell.

Examining trends among 2020 donation sources and recipients reveals some insight.

The generosity of individuals at the start of the pandemic, the stock market recovery in the second half of the year, and rising incomes as unemployment began to decline likely helped push individual giving higher in 2020.

Despite the publicity many companies have garnered for making big donations to social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter groups or pandemic relief efforts, corporate donations have actually declined by more than 6 months. %. We can only speculate that this was due to the pandemic which disrupted corporate profits.

On the other hand, foundations have stepped up their donations, contributing more than ever to charitable works. For the record, we know that foundations stepped up their donations at the start of the pandemic. We reported on the changes that foundations have implemented to increase their giving, increase the flexibility of giving, and reduce bureaucratic processes that can slow giving. Plus, stock market gains later in the year provided them with more resources to donate during the crucial year-end period.

The impact of the pandemic, economic turmoil and efforts to support racial justice have also been reflected in changes in giving among broad categories of recipients. Human services and public society benefit organizations both saw large inflows of money when Americans donated to meet the immediate food and shelter needs of those who lost their jobs due to compulsory closures. The extended shutdowns meant workers in industries such as restaurants, entertainment and travel could not find jobs for months.

Relief funds supported by communities Across the country– often triggered by a gift from a local donor — almost immediately after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. These numbers reflect these local efforts in addition to donating to national and international causes. Experts at Giving USA are also reporting an increase in donations to social justice organizations.

Giving USA data is missing from information on specific donation vehicles such as donor advised funds. However, other recent data also points to a significant increase in DAF payments last year.

For more information, please see: “Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020,” a publication of the Giving USA Foundation, 2021, researched and written by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Available online at


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