Americans reached record high of charitable giving in 2020

The U.S. reached a record high of $471 billion in charitable giving in 2020 with large increases in giving from individuals and foundations.

Despite an economic downturn in 2020, charitable giving in the U.S. reached a record high of $471 billion, according to a new report by Giving USA.

The 5.1% increase from the $448 billion record in 2019, or a 3.8% increase when adjusted for inflation, appears to show Americans continued to open their wallets up to others struggling during difficult times for everyone.

"Many wealthier households were more insulated from the effects of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic shock, and they may have had greater capacity to give charitably than households and communities that were disproportionately affected and struggled financially," said Amir Pasic, the dean of Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which produced the report.

Individual donations made up the majority of giving last year and rose by 2% from the year previous. Foundations showed the biggest increases in overall donations, which rose to $88.5 billion, a 17% jump.

Meanwhile, companies decreased giving by 6% in 2020 , as they struggled to keep their doors open. Experts say that corporation giving is closely aligned with Gross Domestic Product and pre-tax profits, according to the Associated Press

"As an optimist, I’d like to believe that Americans’ generosity will continue to grow," said Laura MacDonald, the chair of the Giving USA Foundation. "But as a realist, I understand that giving responds to larger economic forces. In 2021, we may also realize the benefits of engaging donors through galas and events, personal visits and in-person experiences."

Non-profit organizations in the category of arts and culture showed an overall decline in donations, as did general nonprofit hospitals and other disease-specific health organizations.