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Charitable giving rises to record, philanthropy report says

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Charitable giving surged to a record high in 2017 as Americans gave more than $400 billion for the first time ever to a wide variety of organizations, according to a new report released Tuesday. 

Giving jumped 5.2% from last year to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018, the Giving USA Foundation’s annual report on philanthropy.

The report cited a robust stock market and a strong economy as major factors in the rise of the amount of charitable giving. 

“Americans’ record-breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid,” said Aggie Sweeney, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, in a statement. “Contributions went up nearly across the board, signaling that Americans seem to be giving according to their beliefs and interests, which are diverse and wide-ranging.”

The report, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, found that giving from all sources grew in 2017. Three of the four sources posted gains of more than 5%: Giving by corporations increased 8%, foundations 6%  and individuals 5%.  

“The increase in giving in 2017 was generated in part by increases in the stock markets, as evidenced by the nearly 20% growth in the S&P 500,” said Amir Pasic, dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.  

Gifts to foundations saw the biggest increase in 2017, rising 15.5%, as large investment returns were the basis for several large gifts given by individual philanthropists to their foundations, like Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan and Michael and Susan Dell. 

More: These 3 couples donated $1B or more to their foundations in 2017

The second-largest increase was an 8.7% jump in gifts to the arts, culture and humanities. 

Religious organizations, however, continue to receive the most charitable support, with contributions rising 2.9% to $127.37 billion. 

While the overall amount of giving by Americans has risen, other reports have found that the number of Americans giving to charity is declining. 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that from 2000 to 2014, the share of Americans donating to charity fell from 66.2% to 55.5%

More of the giving is being done by wealthy people who are giving larger gifts, the Chronicle said. 

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