NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 19, 2006

The urgent needs created by three major natural disasters -- the tsunami in Asia, earthquake in Pakistan and Hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Wilma -- drove American philanthropy to its highest level in six years, according to a new study.

  • The Giving USA foundation estimates that in 2005 Americans gave $260.28 billion, a rise of 6.1 percent. The amount is just below the inflation-adjusted high of $260.53 billion in 2000.
  • The three natural disasters generated about $7.37 billion, or 2.8 percent of total charitable donations. Of that amount, individuals contributed $5.83 billion, or 79 percent, and corporations added $1.38 billion, or 19 percent.

The report indicates there would have been a rise in gifts from individuals and corporations even without the giving for the three disasters. In the 51 years that Giving USA has tracked philanthropy, giving has continuously increased with the wealth of the nation.

  • Since 1965, total contributions have been 1.7 to 2.3 percent of gross domestic product. The highest level was reached at the end of the technology boom in 2000. For 2005, it was estimated to be 2.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Disaster relief may have "crowded out" giving to other recipients of international aid. Without the $1.14 billion in relief contributions, giving to this sector fell to $5.25 billion, a decline of 1.9 percent, or an inflation-adjusted drop of 5.1 percent.
  • As is usual, individual giving was the largest source of donations, accounting for an estimated $199 billion, or 76.5 percent of the total. For 2005, it was estimated to rise by 6.4 or 2.9 percent adjusted for inflation.
  • Total corporate giving grew 22.5 percent to an estimated $13.77 billion and made up about 5.3 percent of overall gifts. That is slightly higher than the 40-year average of 5 percent.

Source: Vinnee Tong, "Disasters bring highest levels of giving in 6 years," Associated Press/USA Today, June 19, 2006.


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