Wise Giving Wednesday: $471.4 Billion Contributed in 2020

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calendar icon Jul 14, 2021

Giving in 2020 grew to a record total of $471.4 billion as reported in the Giving USA Report which was published last month by the Giving USA Foundation and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. This report is considered to be the definitive reference for U.S. total contribution statistics. This year’s report, more than most, was the subject of considerable attention as many were concerned about the anticipated negative impact of the pandemic, economy and other issues on giving. Nevertheless, the contribution total increased over the previous year by 5.1 percent in current dollars, a 3.8 percent increase if adjusted for inflation.

Individuals continued to serve as the largest source of giving with $324.1 billion (69%) of that total, foundations provided $88.5 billion (19%), followed by bequests $41.9 billion (9%), and corporations with $16.9 billion (3.6%). One should also consider that MacKenzie Scott’s staggering $5.7 billion contributions in 2020 was a significant part of that total. As noted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, without her gift, “individual giving would have decreased by nearly 0.8 percent.” Also, giving by corporations declined 7.3 percent from the previous year’s total.

In terms of how these contributions were distributed among charitable recipients, Giving USA identified the following ten major categories:

  • Religion, $131.08 billion or 28% of the total
  • Education, $71.34 billion or 15%
  • Human Services, $65.14 billion or 14%
  • Foundations, $58.17 billion or 12%
  • Public Society Benefit, $48.00 billion or 10%
  • Health, $42.12 billion or 9%
  • International Affairs, $25.89 billion or 5%
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities, $19.47 billion, or 4%
  • Environment / Animals, $16.14 billion or 3%
  • Individuals, $15.22 billion or 3%

Of the ten categories noted above, there were only two that experienced a decrease from the previous year. In current dollars, Arts, Culture and Humanities had a 7.5% drop from the 2019 totals and Health had a 3.0% decrease. However, giving to individuals experienced a 12.8 percent over 2019. Giving USA explained that “the bulk of these donations were in-kind gifts of medications to patients in need, made through the patient assistance programs of pharmaceutical companies’ operating foundations.”

There is much more detail and analysis in the full Giving USA Report, but these numbers help to once again demonstrate the generosity of Americans during a most challenging year. It should also be noted that some charities experienced shortfalls, particularly smaller groups, but the clear message is that philanthropy continues to thrive even under the most difficult circumstances.

Video of the Week

As part of the Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Lindsay Jones, President & CEO, National Center for Learning Disabilities (a BBB Accredited Charity) advocates for federal policies, convenes experts to discuss issues facing the field, runs online programs, and publishes research and resources to improve practices in schools. The organization advocates for local and national policy to reduce barriers and increase access for all. The organization also reports that its research seeks to ensure emerging education initiatives benefit students with learning and attention issues.

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance 


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