Corporate gifts fuel US charity gains

US charitable giving rose modestly in 2012, fueled by a jump in corporate gifts and concerns about possible tax changes which could limit future deductions, a survey showed.

Overall charitable contributions from American individuals, corporations and foundations rose 3.5 percent to $316.23 billion in 2012, according to the annual survey by Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University's school of philanthropy.

"When you consider all the factors that go into determining how much we give to charity, modest growth makes sense and is actually encouraging," said Gregg Carlson, chair of the foundation.

"Most households feel pressured at every economic corner, but the longstanding social contract between Americans and the nonprofits they believe in remains resilient and intact; many see giving as a core budget item. The amount devoted to that category might shift up or down with annual economic realities, but it doesn't go away."

The largest segment, giving by individuals rose 3.9 percent to $228.93 billion in 2012, suggesting an easing of some of the economic pressures on US families.

"Income and wealth are key drivers of household giving, as is a sense of financial security," the foundation said.

Giving by corporations jumped 12.2 percent in 2012 to $18.15 billion, highlighting strong corporate profits. Some of this represented an estimated $131 million given to nonprofits for relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Bequests to charities, which can show significant swings from year to year with deaths by wealthy individuals, fell seven percent to $23.41 billion. And foundation gifts rose 4.4 percent to $45.74 billion.

David King, chair of the Giving Institute, said some people and corporations may have stepped up gifts due to proposals aimed at capping or eliminating the longstanding charitable tax deduction.

"Although the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 preserved the deduction, the publicly aired proposals may have fueled some giving decisions," he said.

"Some donors may have ?prepaid' gifts they had intended to make in 2013 to ensure they received a tax benefit, while others may have chosen not to donate out of concern that deductions for very large gifts would not carry over in 2013 and beyond."

Some areas which had been struggling for donations in recent years saw gains: gifts to arts, culture, and humanities organizations rose an estimated 7.8 percent and charities focused on the environment and animals saw a 6.8 percent rise.

Donations to religious organizations, the largest segment for charitable gifts, was virtually flat last year at $101.54 billion.

But gifts for education rose an estimated seven percent to $41.33 billion. More than two-third in this category went to four-year colleges and universities.

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