Posted , by Keith Curtis, President. Topic: Giving USA.

One billion dollars a day. That’s how much Americans give to help others, on average.

Thanks to their generosity, total U.S. charitable giving reached an estimated $373.25 billion in 2015, achieving an all-time high for the second consecutive year. The findings were announced today, as Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015 was released to the public.

Giving USA, the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America, is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public-service initiative of The Giving Institute. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

As chair of Giving USA Foundation, I also was pleased to see that the combined growth for 2014 and 2015 hit double digits—reaching 10.1 percent (using inflation-adjusted dollars). In 2015, total giving grew 4.1 percent in current dollars over 2014.

But these findings embody more than numbers—they also are a symbol of the American spirit. It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a deeper level than ever before.

Charitable contributions from all four sources went up in 2015, with those from individuals once again leading the way in terms of total dollar amount, at $264.58 billion. This follows the historical pattern seen over more than six decades.

(compared with 2014, in current dollars)

? 3.8% Individual

?6.5% Foundation

?2.1% Charitable bequests

?3.9% Corporate

Not only did individuals give the most—in 2015 they were responsible for two-thirds of the year’s overall increase in total giving. We continue to see giving levels reflect economic conditions. Remarkably though, growth in total giving has been outpacing growth in our nation’s GDP.

(compared with 2014, in current dollars)

?2.7% Religion

?8.9% Education

?4.2% Human Services

?3.8% to Foundations

?1.3% Health

?6.0% Public-Society Benefit

?7.0% Arts/Culture/Humanities

?17.5% International Affairs

?6.2% Environment/Animals

As evidenced, giving to educational institutions, and to higher education in particular, remained strong. Giving to foundations was the only category in 2015 where donations decreased—by 3.8 percent in current dollars. Since foundations tend to receive very large gifts, it is possible their magnitude was not as great in 2015 compared to 2014.

Giving to international affairs increased 17.5 percent in 2015 after two straight years of decline. Between 1994 and 2008, the category saw consistently strong growth in the dollar amount of contributions received; since 2008, however, giving has been up and down.

The Curtis Group’s takeaways

1. Dollars Up, Donors Down
The percentage of Americans who give is on a slight decline, but philanthropy in America continues to rise because of increased giving levels of high-net-worth individuals.

2. Investment Philanthropy
2. Donors see their giving as investing in impact.

3, Financial Markets Driving Donor Behavior

4. Donor Vehicles Continue To Grow
Donor-advised funds are a strong example.

5. Mega-Gifts Playing Major Role
(Gifts of $100 million+), particularly in education and arts.

6. Donor Retention Continues To Be Challenge

Even in light of the record-setting giving of the past two years and all the good that will do, there is always room to do more. But as we consider what that more could be, all of us should pause to celebrate the impact we are having and the difference we are making individually and collectively. And we should spread the word about what philanthropy can do.

Download a free copy of Highlights, the Giving USA 2016 executive summary.

How should nonprofits respond to these trends? Attend one of our Giving USA presentations to learn more!

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