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Average Americans Gave Away Billions in 2014


In this 2012 file photo, a shopper looking for clothes at the Salvation Army store in Staten Island, New York, receives a surprise $100 donation.

In this 2012 file photo, a shopper looking for clothes at the Salvation Army store in Staten Island, New York, receives a surprise $100 donation.

Last year, Americans again showed they are generous people. A majority of Americans, two-thirds, gave money to charity in 2014. And they gave away more money than ever before. They gave away an estimated total of $358 billion. It is a seven percent increase from 2013. This is according to a report, Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

The idea of helping the poor and the less fortunate goes back to the 1700s, when the United States was a British colony. In the 18th century, people gave money to religion and education. But as the country grew and people did well financially, the giving included the arts, health and social causes.

“Giving has been part of our fiber since the beginning of our country,” said Aggie Sweeney, vice chairperson of the Giving USA Foundation. “Americans have always seen giving as an important part of what makes our communities work. In America, we’ve had a belief of taking care of our own and wanting to be able not to only have government take care of things, but to invest in what we feel is really important.”

Now, more than two hundred years later, religion and education still receive the most money from Americans. Religious organizations have received more charitable money than any other cause or group over the last 60 years.

But things are changing. Overall, religion now takes in a smaller percentage of giving. This could be because the United States is seeing a decline, or drop, in religious beliefs, and less people go to church regularly.

“There’s been a steady decline over the years,” Sweeney said. “We do know, as we look at 40-year trends, that the proportion of American households that are actively involved in and participating in religious or spiritual communities has declined and we believe that that accounts for much of the difference in giving to religion.”

Most of the money to charity was from individuals. Another report, from the journal Chronicle of Philanthropy says that the top 50 donors from the U.S. gave a total of $9.8 billion. Americans can use charity gifts as a tax deduction on their yearly tax return forms. In 2012, the average cash charitable deduction on the tax returns was $4,449.

Corporations, or businesses, gave $17.7 billion. That is five percent of the total money donated. Ms. Sweeney says those numbers suggest philanthropic, or charity, giving is not of great importance for many U.S. corporations.

“Corporate giving increased a bit, but when we look at it as a percent of pre-tax profits, it dropped,” Ms. Sweeney said. “I would love to have corporations feel more of a sense of responsibility and commitment to the communities that helped to make them successful. We just aren’t seeing that.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

VOA’s Dora Mekouar wrote this story. Anne Ball adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

generous –adj. giving freely or sharing money

charity –n. the act of giving money, food, or other kinds of help to people who are poor, sick, etc.

less fortunate –adj. not as lucky

fiber –n. strength or toughness of character

proportion - n. an amount that is part of a whole

cash- n. money

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2014 U.S. Charitable Giving

Religion – $114.90 billion
Education – $54.62 billion
Human Services – $42.10 billion
Health – $30.37 billion
Arts/Culture/Humanities – $17.23 billion
Environment/Animals – $10.50 billion
Public/Society Benefit – $26.29 billion
Foundations – $41.62 billion
International Affairs – $15.10 billion

Source: Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

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