Gifts to religious organizations represented the highest percentage of total donations (32 percent). (Image courtesy of franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
More than $358 billion was given to charitable causes in 2014, according to a new report from Giving USA.
This is an increase of 7.1 percent from 2013 when $335 billion in charitable gifts were donated.
When adjusted for inflation, "giving in 2014 is estimated to have surpassed the highs seen prior to the recession."
Giving by individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations all grew significantly, with individual donations driving the overall increase.
"The single largest contributor to the increase in total charitable giving in 2014 was an increase of $13.88 billion in giving by individuals - 58 percent of the total change between 2013 and 2014," the report said.
In the last five years, "the average annual inflation-adjusted rate of change in total giving was 3.6 percent," Giving USA said. The historic average following a recession is 3.0 percent.
Gifts to religious organizations represented the highest percentage of total donations (32 percent), and "the estimated amount contributed to religion in 2014 reached its highest value ever."
While a positive sign, a press release from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University reveals that giving to religious organizations grew by only 2.5 percent (0.9 percent when adjusted for inflation).
"Historically, there is a three-year lag in philanthropic response to economic conditions," said Eileen Heisman, CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust, when commenting on the report.
She added, "The Giving USA report notes that 2014 was the fifth year of growth across the four major sources of giving and, for the first time, the country has surpassed pre-recession levels of 2007, which is all right on target and excellent news for charities, the beneficiaries of charities, and philanthropists."
"While circumstances vary from organization to organization, it appears that the nonprofit sector overall can at last focus on expanding giving rather than regaining lost ground," observed Amir Pasic, dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
A summary of the charitable giving report is available here.