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Charitable giving exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time in the United States in 2017 says Giving USA, increasing 5.2% over the revised total of $389.6 billion contributed in 2016:

“‘Americans’ record-breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid. As people have more resources available, they are choosing to use them to make a difference, pushing giving over $400 billion,’ said Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, chair of Giving USA Foundation and senior counsel at Campbell & Company. ‘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 Giving USA Foundation describes itself as a public service initiative of The Giving Institute. Their comprehensive study each year on charitable giving is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

TABLE 1: SOURCES OF 2017 CHARITABLE GIVING

Source: Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017

USA Today notes that “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.” They add, “Religious organizations, however, continue to receive the most charitable support, with contributions rising 2.9% to $127.37 billion.”

TABLE 2: WHERE ARE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS GOING?

$ figures in billions

Sources: USA Today, Giving USA

The press release from Giving USA notes that the record level of giving was likely powered by stock market gains, a stronger economy, and improvements in personal income and personal consumption data, which “are associated with households’ long-term financial stability and have historically been correlated with giving by individuals.” The press release recognizes that the revised tax code instituted by the Trump administration and Congress may have an impact going forward, stating, “While policy developments may have played some role in charitable giving in 2017, most of the effects of the tax policy changes adopted in late December 2017 likely will affect giving in 2018 and beyond.”

While wage growth has been slow in the recovery since the credit crisis, household wealth has grown through investments; the rise in housing values; and additions to the labor force, which add new earners to households.

Reuters reported on June 8, 2018,

“U.S. households added $1 trillion to their wealth in the first three months of this year, boosted by rising stock prices and home values, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday. The rising value of their investments has now boosted their net worth by over $6 trillion compared to the first quarter of 2017, a period that overlapped with the first year of the Trump administration. … The value of financial assets held by households rose by $511 billion during the first quarter, while real estate value rose by $490 billion, the report said.”

According to the Federal Reserve, household wealth topped $100 trillion for the first time in the first quarter of 2018. Yardeni Research has plotted the growth of household net worth over the past six decades.

FIGURE 1: U.S. HOUSEHOLDS—NET WORTH

Trillion dollars, ratio scale

Source: Yardeni Research, Federal Reserve Board Financial Accounts of the United States

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