“Philanthropy” in the United States is a vast industry composed of individuals, foundations, and corporations that, in 2017, contributed $410 billion to charitable causes, an amount roughly equivalent to 2 percent of gross domestic product.
By Larry McGill, Philanthropy News Digest
Of this total, nearly 70 percent is contributed by individuals, with more than half of that comprised of giving to congregations. The second largest source of philanthropic giving (some 24 percent) comes from grants made by private foundations which, along with a few dozen other major foundations, dominate a diverse ecosystem populated by tens of thousands of foundations of all sizes. Third is bequests, through which people designate universities, hospitals, and other tax-exempt organizations as beneficiaries in their wills. And last comes corporations – a surprise to many observers, who, given the dominant position of the private sector in the U.S. economy, no doubt assume that businesses play a far greater role in philanthropy.
My organization, Foundation Center, compiles comprehensive data on the more than 87,000 active U.S. foundations and, working with partners around the world, a growing number of foundations and foundation-like organizations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The center envisions a world enriched by the effective allocation of philanthropic resources, informed public discourse about philanthropy, and broad understanding of the contributions of nonprofit activity to transform lives and increase opportunity for all.
We also see U.S. philanthropy as having arrived at a critical juncture. Buoyed by a strong economy, U.S. foundations find themselves navigating a complex landscape in a volatile and highly polarized political environment.