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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

2020 saw a surge in charitable giving, and 2021 could top it.

Why it matters: We're navigating another COVID wave, and inflation is squeezing budgets — but amid all the bleakness this holiday season, Americans are still finding ways to give back.

"There have been unprecedented opportunities to make a difference," says Una Osili, an associate dean at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

  • The hardships spurred by the pandemic, the racial justice protests and, more recently, the deadly tornadoes in Kentucky and surrounding states have all created new opportunities to give back.
  • And restaurant closures and limited travel have left many Americans with more disposable income, putting them in a better financial position to give, Osili notes.

What's happening: Americans donated $2.7 billion on Giving Tuesday this year — a 9% jump from last year.

  • Overall, Americans donated $471 billion in 2020, up 5% from 2019. 2021 is still in the middle of its giving season — in fact, Dec. 31st is one of the most popular giving days of the year, says Osili.
  • More of the super-wealthy are pledging to give away their billions. Two of 2020's biggest donors were MacKenzie Scott, who was married to Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
  • And more rich people signed the Giving Pledge in 2021 — including DoorDash founder Tony Xu and Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann — promising to give away the majority of their wealth, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It’s not just individuals. Companies are also joining the giving trend, Yahoo Finance reports.

  • Madewell, the clothing retailer, will match and triple any donation made to No Kid Hungry through its platform — up to $100,000 — until the end of the year.
  • Our Place, the kitchenware brand, will donate 10 meals to Feeding America for every purchase.
  • The home goods company Brooklinen is taking advantage of holiday returns and giving returned products to domestic violence shelters around the country.

This is a sticking point for holiday shoppers: Some 70% of U.S. consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a certain company if some of their money or some of the merchandise is being donated, according to a recent survey from TopCashback.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Give time: Every city has food banks, youth centers or homeless shelters where you can help. There are even virtual volunteer gigs on VolunteerMatch that are COVID-safe.
  • Give money: If you’re buying gifts, pick a company that's giving back. Or use something like Goodshop, which digs up coupons for you and then lets you pick a charity to donate the cash you saved. 
  • Give things: Around 40% of Americans want to purge their closets, per CivicScience data. Do your research so the clothes you’re donating don’t just end up in a landfill. Mashable suggests donating to Goodwill or the Salvation Army because these big organizations can handle volume, and they’re less likely to get overwhelmed and throw clothes out.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 25, 2021 - World

5 stories worth your time

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. GDP stocking stuffer: The COVID-19 vaccine generated economic savings equal to 2.3% in the real gross domestic product to the U.S. this year.
  2. Thank a teacher: Severe burnout is raising concerns about turnover — and more broadly, the state of education.
  3. Record low: U.S. population grew by 0.1% in the year that ended July 1, the slowest rate since the nation's founding.
  4. New supply chain crisis: Shipping containers carrying medical supplies are facing ongoing transportation congestion
  5. Buckle up: Wall Street strategists see the shape of 2022 pegged to three main hooks: inflation, corporate spending and the pandemic's path.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.