Philanthropy Fact Sheet
Prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers
Philanthropic giving in 1998 was estimated to be $174.5 billion.
Individuals accounted for 85 percent of all contributions in 1998,
while corporations and foundations accounted for 5 percent and 10
percent of contributions, respectively. Contributions by individuals
have increased 31 percent since 1995, while foundation giving has
increased by over 50 percent.
There has been a recent resurgence in philanthropy as a percentage
Total giving represented just over 2 percent of GDP in 1970.
However, it dropped in the 1970s to just 1.7 percent in 1979 and
remained fairly constant at about 1.75 percent in the 1980s and early
90s. But since 1995, giving has risen sharply to just over 2 percent in
1998 -- back to the levels of 30 years ago.
Religion was by far the single largest recipient of contributions,
at 44 percent of the total last year. Donations to religion averaged
about 50 percent of total contributions from the early 1980s to the
mid-1990s, but have fallen as a share of the total since 1995.
Other organizations have received substantial increases in
donations since 1990. These include education (up 59 percent),
environmental organizations (up 69 percent), public-benefit
organizations such as civil rights groups and community development
organizations (up 77 percent), and gifts to foundations (up 254
Families at every level of income (except the very top) are about
equally generous: The 95 percent of families with incomes under
$100,000 all tend to contribute roughly 1.5 percent to 2 percent of
their incomes, on average -- even the very poor. Those with incomes
above this level tend to contribute a higher percentage of their
Elderly households (over age 65) at every level of income are
generous givers. They tend to make larger inter vivos contributions in
terms of both donation size and as a percentage of their incomes than
Wealthy households give a disproportionate share of individual
contributions. The 20 percent of families with incomes of $60,000 or
more in 1994 gave 67 percent of all individual contributions that year.
The 4.3 percent of families with incomes above $125,000 gave 46 percent
of the total.
An estimated $12 trillion in wealth will be transferred over the
next 20 years. This will result in an estimated $1.7 trillion in
charitable bequests. Over the next 55 years, the wealth transfer is
estimated to be $41 billion, resulting in $6 trillion in charitable