Jun 24, 2023 - Economy

Charted: The long decline of charity

Data: Giving USA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Giving USA; Chart: Axios Visuals

Here, in one chart from Giving USA, is the decline of charity — the flip side of the rise of philanthropy.

Why it matters: As I wrote last year, charities like to say that "every penny counts." In reality, small-dollar donations have never mattered less.

  • Increasingly, it's a small number of ultra-high net worth individuals, alongside even fewer old money foundations, who determine whether charities thrive or wither away.

By the numbers: The amount that Americans gave to charity dropped last year by $17.3 billion. The amount given by corporations went up, as did bequests and giving by foundations. But giving by individuals fell, by $21.9 billion, hence the overall decline.

Between the lines: Even within the world of individual giving there's a move away from the model of raising small sums from many households and toward a much more targeted strategy of cultivating very rich donors — or at least the kind of people who still itemize their taxes and can claim the charitable tax deduction.

The bottom line: Now more than ever, the purse strings of the charitable sector are controlled by the rich and powerful.

Go deeper