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New Giving Record Is More Than a Number

Perspectives on Giving USA 2016—a look at the relationship between the data, the donations and the people who make philanthropy happen.


One billion dollars a day. That’s how much Americans give to help others, on average. Thanks to their generosity, total U.S. charitable giving reached an estimated $373.25 billion in 2015, achieving an all-time high for the second consecutive year, reports Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, released today.

Giving from all sources—individuals, bequests, foundations, and corporations—increased in 2015, and we also saw increases in giving to all but one type of recipient of charitable giving. These patterns underscore what we have learned from more than six decades of Giving USA data: Americans are generous year in and year out.

givingUSA_side_table.jpgGiving USA Foundation, the Giving Institute, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy are pleased to continue our partnership in providing the most comprehensive, longest-running, and most rigorously researched resource on U.S. charitable giving. We are privileged to report on Americans’ generosity, the forms it takes, and how those patterns and trends unfold over time, whether they represent crucial nuances or sea changes.

This report is filled with numbers—important research that is valuable for understanding what is happening in philanthropy today and what those trends mean for both givers and recipients in the short term and in the long run. But it is also about so much more than numbers, no matter how big those numbers may be. The numbers matter, of course, but they matter most because of what they enable all of us to do for the benefit of others.

For those who give, what lies behind the numbers is often caring, empathy, or the strong desire to make a difference—whether for one person or for thousands. Motivations for giving are complex and vary widely among the individuals and institutions doing the giving, but often generosity is born of gratitude, of lessons learned by example, of personal experience, or of the drive for positive change and impact. For many, a pleasant and often unexpected side effect is the warm glow that comes from helping someone else.

For the recipients of such generosity, the numbers represent opportunity, relief, restored health, more education, a first chance to experience the arts, cleaner water, a better life. Giving opens hearts and opens doors. Giving can make an enduring difference, around the world, across the country, and in the communities where we live and work every day. And for both the giver and the recipient, giving represents hope and the faith that progress and a brighter future are possible.

The data for the past two years attest to those possibilities: for the first time in a decade, we saw a combined two-year, double-digit growth rate of 10.1 percent for 2014 and 2015, adjusted for inflation. This increase in giving mirrored the generally positive growth during those years in both the overall economy and in most of the multiple economic factors that influence giving.

Even in light of the record-setting giving of the past two years and all the good that will do, there is always room to do more. But as we consider what that more could be, all of us should pause to celebrate the impact we are having and the difference we are making individually and collectively. And we should spread the word about what philanthropy can do.

Giving USA Foundation, The Giving Institute, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy believe that Giving USA is both a public service and a public trust, and we are dedicated to providing the highest-quality information to all those who are interested and engaged in the philanthropic community. We are committed to providing the background and context about the factors shaping philanthropy that enable scholars, researchers, and policymakers to help strengthen American philanthropy and its impact. Most of all, we are committed to equipping nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, donors, and volunteers with insights into the philanthropic climate to help you do what you do even better.

This article appears as the Foreword in Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015. Learn more and order your copy of the report, in digital or paperback formats, at  

Topics: Giving USA Philanthropy Trends