Gifts to human services organizations decreased for a third consecutive year.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans increased donations to charity by 5 percent in 2004, a lift for philanthropies that saw contributions stagnate in the past few years, says a new study, released Monday.
But givers sent most of their additional donations to organizations in which they have a direct stake, rather than social service groups dedicated to helping those less fortunate, says the report by the Giving USA Foundation.
Overall, donations rose to $248.5 billion, the highest yearly total ever. That represents a 5 percent increase, or 2.3 percent when adjusted for inflation.
The increase marks the first time since the stock market bubble in 2000 that contributions rose in inflation-adjusted dollars.
The economic recession that began in early 2001 curtailed philanthropic giving. In 2003 donations declined by 1 percent, after the adjustment for inflation. But, at least for corporations, foundations and wealthier donors, the subsequent improvement in the business climate has eased the way for larger donations, said Henry Goldstein, chairman of Giving USA.
"We know that there is a relationship between economic progress and philanthropic return," he said. "Clearly the economy for this reporting period appears to have been more stable and this certainly helped push up the number."
The Giving USA Foundation is chartered by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, a trade group. Research for the report is generated by the Center on Philanthropy, located at Indiana University.
Despite the overall increase in giving, donors contributed a smaller percentage of their personal income to charity than in the past. In 2000, donors earmarked about 2.1 percent of their income for charity, or about $191. That declined last year to 1.9 percent, or about $188.
Religious organizations and education were the biggest single recipients of contributions, netting an estimated $88 billion and $34 billion, respectively, last year.
Total gifts to many types of organizations rose. Environmental and animal rights organizations enjoyed a 4.2 percent increase in inflation-adjusted terms, for example, while donations to arts and humanities groups rose 3.9 percent.