Here’s some good news: last year was one of the most charitable years in U.S. history. According to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy, Americans gave $390.05 billion to charities in 2016—about a 3 percent increase from 2015.
But what’s particularly impressive is that Americans were still generous despite a rocky election cycle. Aggie Sweeney, the chair of Giving USA, fully expected donations to drop off in 2016 due to all the political upheaval. But that’s not what happened.
“Americans remained generous in 2016, despite it being a year punctuated by economic and political uncertainty,” Sweeney stated. “We saw growth in every major sector, indicating the resilience of philanthropy and diverse motivations of donors.”
The report also shows that donations made by individuals are on the rise. Last year, individual contributions topped $282 billion—up 3.9 percent from 2015.
Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean of academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (which compiles the report), says that the increase in individual giving reflects the “democratization of philanthropy.”
“In 2016, we saw something of a democratization of philanthropy,” Rooney stated. “The strong growth in individual giving may be less attributable to the largest of the large gifts, which were not as robust as we have seen in some prior years, suggesting that more of that growth in 2016 may have come from giving by donors among the general population compared to recent years.”
But it’s not just individual contributions that are on the rise; donations from foundations also rose—to the tune of a 3.5 percent increase from 2015. Donations from corporations also increased by 3.5 percent. In fact, the only demographic that saw a decrease was giving via bequests, which fell by 9 percent.
As for which causes people are donating to the most, religion remains number one with education coming in at a close second.