Americans dig deeper to help their neighbors

Phil Hanson
Truman Heartland Community Foundation

Recently, the annual report on charitable giving in the United States was released by Giving USA through the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy research. This report was first published in 1956 and is recognized in the philanthropy world as the best source for charitable giving information.

Phil Hanson

The great news is that charitable giving was up 3.8% in 2020 and totaled $471.44 billion. So, even during a pandemic and the shutdown of the economy resulting in the loss of 9.6 million jobs, our fellow citizens continued their tradition of generosity. And this increase is driven by individual giving, with 69% of total giving ($324.10 B) coming from individuals and an additional 9% coming from individuals through bequests, for a total of 78%. There is a great deal of anecdotal information (not formal research) regarding the increased giving of those who still had jobs and were not as impacted by the pandemic using stimulus check money for donations to assist their neighbors in greater need.

Gifts from foundations is the second-largest source of charitable giving totaling $88.55 billion in 2020, or 19% of the total. I was pleased to see this category had the most significant increase in 2020 and was up 15.6%. We experienced a similar increase at Truman Heartland Community Foundation, with our total of grants and scholarships increasing to $5.4 million in 2020 from $4.8 million in 2019, up 12.5%. And the 250 families that we serve through providing a donor-advised fund increased their grants in 2020 by 21%. We have the privilege of working with some of the most generous people in our community who truly responded generously last year.

When there seem to be so many things that we disagree about, things that divide us. It's great to see that the tradition of charitable giving is something we all agree on and value, and it remains strong even during a pandemic. That is something of which all Americans should be proud.

Phil Hanson is president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, based in Independence.