Monday, June 19, 2006

Disasters Boost Charitable Giving in US, Including to Animal Rights Causes

Great news amongst all the horrible tragedy, including the fact that “[e]nvironmental and animal rights charities grew by 16.4 per cent.”

Let’s hope this year it grows but minus the tragedy.


Disasters boost charitable giving in US

By Paul Sullivan in New York

Published: June 19 2006 05:48 | Last updated: June 19 2006 05:48

The Asian tsunami and the hurricanes in the US gulf coast pushed charitable giving in the US to a near-record $260.3bn last year – a $15.4bn increase on 2004.

The last time Americans gave so much to charity was in 2000, at the height of the technology boom, when the annual Giving USA survey of philanthropy put their contributions at a record $260.5bn (€210bn, £140bn).

This year’s survey, to be released on Monday, puts charitable giving as a percentage of GDP at 2.1 per cent, above the 40-year average of 1.9 per cent.

Disaster relief accounted for half of the surge in giving, although 59 per cent of charities had an increase in donations even before relief was factored in.

As always, individuals were the biggest source of donations; their contributions last year rose by 6.4 per cent to $199.1bn, accounting for 76.5 per cent of the total.

Corporate giving rose 22.5 per cent to $13.8bn, while foundations increased their giving by 5.6 per cent to $30bn.

Seventy-nine per cent of disaster relief – $5.8bn – was contributed by individuals. This largess was encouraged by the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act, which doubled the tax deduction for cash donations to all public charities, including organisations that had nothing to do with the hurricane relief efforts, from 50 per cent of a person’s income to 100 per cent.

The act was intended to ensure that other charities did not suffer when wealthy Americans channelled their giving to relief organisations, as was the case after the September 11 2001 terror attacks. Some $2.8bn was given in response to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, according to a 2004 report.

“Disaster relief certainly played a role in 2005,” says Richard Jolly, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation. “Relief contributions are estimated to be roughly 3 per cent of the total.”

The disasters also spurred donations in kind that are more difficult to calculate, says George Ruotolo, acting chair of the Giving Institute, a consultancy. He points to religious groups sending goods and volunteers to the disaster areas, but says it is difficult to calculate how much they gave because of lack of data.

The study reported two other areas of dramatic growth. Human services agencies saw a 15 per cent increase in donations excluding disaster relief; when that money was factored in, the increase jumped to 32 per cent. This comes after a three-year decline.

Environmental and animal rights charities grew by 16.4 per cent.

Religious organisations received the largest share of dollars, an estimated $93.2bn in 2005. Organisations that focused on the arts and on health experienced a drop in funding, however.

Arts giving had historically been subject to wild swings linked to big gifts and bequests, the study said, and last year that swing was down 3.4 per cent.

Health charities have shown inflation-adjusted declines or only moderate growth since 2000; their 2.7 per cent gain last year became a 0.7 per cent loss when inflation was taken into account.

From 1965 to 2005 inflation-adjusted giving increased 185 per cent, from $91.2bn to $260.3bn. Most of that growth has happened since 1996, when giving was $173.1bn.

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