Giving By the Numbers

As the economy continued to plummet to levels many thought impossible in the first quarter of 2009, few sectors trembled more than the non-profit community.

With incomes down, jobs lost, and retirement funds crippled, many are wondered what people would have left to give. Times will certainly be tough, but there is a silver lining to hold onto. Even in the Great Depression, Americans gave. While total giving dropped, charity as a percentage of income sunk only slightly, less than two percent.

While arts organizations felt a bigger hit, education and human services saw people shift their giving to them, which helped make up for declines. Here’s a look at giving in times good and bad, in simple numbers.

$14 billion

The total giving by Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller in their lifetimes (in 2003 dollars)

$13 billion

Total federal spending in 1910 (in 2003 dollars)

$23 billion

Total given or pledged by Bill Gates in 2003

$2.16 trillion

Total federal spending in 2003


Percent decline in charitable giving in the United States from 1929 to 1933


The drop in giving as a percentage of income by Americans throughout the depression


Percent decline in giving to colleges and universities from 1930 – 1938


Percent of all charitable giving that comes from families with a net worth of $5 million or more


The mean giving for households with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million in 2007


The average amount contributed to charities by U.S. households in 2004


Rank of Utah in charitable giving per household in the United States


Rank of Wisconsin

Sources: Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University;; New York Times;; Wealth Manager Magazine; USA Today