Charitable Giving in America: Some Facts and Figures

1. Household giving as percentage of private giving

Giving by individuals makes up the vast majority of contributions received by nonprofit organizations. Giving USA 2015 estimates that individual giving amounted to $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1 percent in current dollars from 2013. This accounts for 72 percent of all contributions received in 2014.

Source: Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014 (Chicago: Giving USA Foundation, 2015), p. 26.


2. Charitable donations by state

The National Center for Charitable Statistics’s (NCCS) annual report on Individual Charitable Giving by State shows that total reported charitable deductions amounted to $174.5 billion in 2011. This represents an increase of 2.8 percent from 2010’s $169.8 billion (in inflation- adjusted dollars).

The average charitable deduction per return was $1,201 in 2011; state averages ranged from $2,516 in Utah to $620 in West Virginia. Following Utah, the other four states rounding out the top 5 average charitable contributions by return are, in descending order, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Wyoming, and New York. NCCS will publish a fuller version of the report in early 2014.


3. Giving as a percentage of adjusted gross income by income level (from itemizers only)

Data from the IRS’s 2011 Statistics of Income (SOI) file on individuals who itemize on their tax return shows a U-shaped relationship between total adjusted gross income (AGI) and charitable giving as a percentage of AGI. In other words, those at either the high end or low end of the income distribution tend to give a higher percentage of their income as contributions than those in the middle.

In broad strokes, those with income between $100,000 and $200,000 contribute, on average, 2.6 percent of their income, which is lower compared to those with income either below $100,000 (3.6 percent) or above $200,000 (3.1 percent).[1] The effect is even more severe at the extremes, as seen in the figure below.[2]


4. Giving to religious organizations versus other nonprofits.

The table below, which contains  data originally collected for the 2006 wave of the Philanthropy Panel Study, was originally published in The Nonprofit Almanac 2012. As the table shows, fewer households make charitable donations of $25 or more to religious organizations than to non-religious organizations. However, households that contribute to religious organizations tend to give more, both in dollars per donation and in percentage of income donated. In both cases, households that give to religious organizations donate about twice as much as households that give to secular organizations. 




Organization type

% of households giving

Average donation
if giving

% of income
if giving















  Source: The Nonprofit Almanac
  Note: The “all” row contains donation statistics for everyone who  contributed to an organization of any type. 

5. Trends in giving from Giving USA

After a slight drop during the recent Great Recession, individual giving has been increasing in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars for the last couple years, although it has not recovered to pre-recession levels. According to Giving USA 2015, individual giving peaked in 2005, staying relatively level before dropping in the first year of the recession (2008) and again in the following year. Every year since 2009 has seen a gradual increase.


  Source: Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014 (Chicago: Giving USA Foundation, 2015), p.39.


6. Giving around the holidays

The last few months of the year make up what is commonly called the Giving Season for the nonprofit community. As the holidays near, people may feel encouraged to give more generously than during the rest of the year.

In a 2007 study,  The Center on Philanthropy (COP) at Indiana University found that their respondents reported giving about 24 percent of their annual total between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. A more recent COP study focused on high–net worth donors (defined as households with income greater than $200,000 and net worth over $1,000,000) found that 42.7 percent of those surveyed gave more during the holidays than the rest of the year; 44.4 percent reported giving “about the same.”

From the nonprofit’s perspective, many organizations report similar conclusions. According to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, in their Winter 2011 issue of the Nonprofit Fundraising Survey, over half of the nonprofit organizations queried reported that they received over a quarter of their contributions between October and December, with 16 percent of all organizations receiving over half their year’s total contributions during those same months.   


2012 GuideStar Survey  yielded a more pronounced conclusion: 50.5 percent of the organizations surveyed said they received the majority of their contributions between October and December.


Individual Charitable Contributions by State

These short reports document and compare charitable giving by state, as reported by individuals itemizing their deductions (PDF format).  Profiles of Individual Charitable Contributions by State, 2011.  


[1] Individuals from higher income categories are far more likely to itemize than individuals with lower income. For example, approximately 23.4 percent of individuals with less than $100,000 in AGI itemize their returns, compared with 83.7 percent in the $100,000–200,000 category and 96.0 percent in the above-$100,000 category.

[2] Analysis performed by NCCS, based on data drawn from the 2011 IRS Statistics of Income file, “Individual Complete Report (Publication 1304),”Table 2.1