NEW YORK (AP) — Wealthy donors are lavishing money on their favored charities, including universities, hospitals and arts institutions, while giving is flat to social service and church groups more dependent on financially squeezed middle-class donors, according to the latest comprehensive report on how Americans give away their money.
The Giving USA report, being released Tuesday, said Americans gave an estimated $335.17 billion to charity in 2013, up 3 percent from 2012 after adjustment for inflation.
Reflecting the nation's widening wealth gap, some sectors fared far better than others. Adjusted for inflation, giving was up 7.4 percent for education, 6.3 percent for the arts and humanities, and 4.5 percent for health organizations, while giving to religious groups declined by 1.6 percent and giving to social service groups rose by only 0.7 percent.
Experts with the Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said it was the fourth straight year of increased overall giving, and predicted that within two more years the total could match the pre-recession peak of $347.5 billion.
During and immediately after the recession, some wealthy donors shifted their giving to social service groups working to combat hunger and homelessness, according to Patrick Rooney, associate dean of the school of philanthropy. Now, many of those donors — including some making multimillion-dollar gifts — are refocusing their attention on higher education, the arts and other sectors long patronized by the affluent, he said.
The trend is readily apparent in the listings of recent major charitable gifts compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which provides news coverage of the nonprofit world.
Among the 100 largest recent gifts, which range from $7.5 million to $275 million, the recipients overwhelmingly are universities and hospitals, along with a few arts institutions. Only four of the gifts are to social service organizations and one to a religious group.
Almost all the U.S. income gains from 2009 to 2012 flowed to the top 1 percent of earners, according to tax data analyzed by economist Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley. By contrast, median household income was $51,017 in 2012, $4,600 below its peak in 2007, according to the Census Bureau.
"It's the very wealthiest who have recovered the most in terms of the giving potential, and the very wealthiest do tend to give their biggest gifts to colleges and hospitals," said Stacy Palmer, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's editor.
Those are the institutions that ask more effectively, she added. "They have development offices who offer donors these ambitious plans."
In contrast, she said many social service organizations rely heavily on less wealthy donors who may not yet feel they have fully recovered from the recession. Compounding their struggles, some of those organizations are still experiencing increased demand for services as high unemployment and other social woes persist in many communities, Palmer said.
Rooney noted that many social-service organizations focus on obtaining government contracts and grants, while devoting fewer resources to courting wealthy donors. Universities typically have large, highly professional fundraising staffs, and an easily identifiable pool of potential benefactors.
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