Nobody really knows how much Americans give to charity each year, and there are now a number of new actors in the charitable giving estimation game, but Giving USA has been around the longest, and they estimate that Americans gave more than $335 billion to charity in 2013. As one might expect, most of the charities that receive the most contributions are household names.
One interesting thing to note is that with more than 900,000 charities currently operating in the United States, as well as an estimated 400,000 religious organizations not required to report to the IRS, these 15 organizations received $16.4 billion between them, nearly 5 percent of the Giving USA estimate. Another thing that pops out at me is that organizations that offer donor advised funds occupy the first, third, fourth and sixth spots on the list, and account for almost half of the top fifteen’s contributions. When an individual gives to a donor advised fund, there is currently no requirement that this money ever be spent on actual charitable activities. Certain lawmakers have been working to more strictly regulate the way that donor advised funds operate because of this possibility, although aggregate studies suggest that donor advised funds generally pay out more than twice as much as the current 5 percent requirement for private foundations. It will certainly be interesting to see what, if anything, Congress decides to do about donor advised funds.
Chuck McLean is responsible for conducting research for GuideStar and customers interested in nonprofit sector data. He also works to identify new data sources and ways to present data effectively to GuideStar users. Chuck produces the annual GuideStar Compensation Report, which analyzes the salary and benefits of thousands of nonprofits throughout the country. He has 15 years of experience as a teacher and researcher in various institutions of higher education. Chuck serves on the advisory committee of the National Center for Charitable Statistics and is a member of the Panel of Nonprofit Sector Representatives for the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations. A graduate of Christopher Newport University, Chuck also received an M.S. degree in mathematics from the College of William and Mary.