According to the report, charitable giving was fueled largely by significant gains in stock prices. The biggest gains in gift revenue were enjoyed by human services organizations, environmental charities, donor-advised funds, and educational institutions.
While all measured sectors grew significantly, giving to churches and health organizations failed to keep pace with giving in other sectors.
"In 2013, we experienced a fantastic, record-setting year for charitable giving in the United States," Rob Mitchell, CEO of the Atlas of Giving, says. "Stock market growth fueled much of the giving, but improving employment, growing real estate values, a lack of inflation, low interest rates, and acceleration in GDP also helped to make 2013 an especially strong giving year. Breaking the $400 billion mark is a historic event that bolsters US dominance of world philanthropy."
Several key factors combined to create a favorable atmosphere for philanthropy in 2013. Stock market values soared, the Dow was up 26 percent, the S&P index grew 29 percent, the NASDAQ grew nearly 40 percent and, nationwide, housing prices climbed more than 12 percent. All of these outcomes positively impacted the giving environment.
"These conditions in the marketplace motivated many affluent donors to give, especially to universities and donor-advised funds," Mitchell says. "Giving appreciated stock or real estate is a great way to avoid paying capital gains tax, and many donors took advantage of the opportunity by making gifts involving such assets."
The initial outlook for giving in 2014 is positive, but growth in giving is not expected to keep pace with 2013 levels, which jumped up significantly from the previous six years of data.
"Based on what we are seeing today, we expect giving to grow about 4 percent in 2014," Mitchell reports. "But, it is important to note, with an ever-changing financial market and giving environment, conditions can and do change. That is why we update our forecast monthly."
The full Atlas of Giving Report on 2013 charitable giving results and the forecast for 2014 can be found at atlasofgiving.com.
Highlights from the Atlas of Giving Report
- Giving to human needs organizations (up 19.1 percent) and environmental causes (up 18.5 percent) showed the highest rate of growth in giving.
- The lingering effects of high unemployment continue to hurt churches and organizations that rely on a large number of small gifts from many donors.
- Publicity related to the Affordable Care Act appears to be having a negative impact on giving to hospitals and health-related charities.
- Giving to churches and religious organizations is a shrinking share of total giving (35 percent in 2013, down from 36 percent in 2012 and 37 percent in 2010), but it is still the largest giving sector in the United States. This proportional decline is a function of several years of high unemployment combined with decreasing church membership and attendance.
Among wealthier donors, significant charitable assets are moving away from family foundations and into donor-advised funds which pose lower costs and fewer management issues.