Americans show generosity despite a struggling economy

According to, Americans gave $306 billion to charity during 2007, up 1 percent from $295.02 billion during 2006.

About 74.8 percent—$229 billion—of the total came from individuals. Giving by bequest was $23.2 billion, which was up 4 percent from 2006; foundations donated $38.5 billion, which was up 7.3 percent; and corporations gave $15.7 billion, which was down 0.9 percent.

The largest amount of donations, $102.3 billion, went to religious organizations; $43.3 billion went to education.

The largest increase in donations went to international charities, which received $13.2 billion—up 12.9 percent; much of that increase is credited to retaining donors that gave in response to Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunamis.

All categories of charities experienced increases in donations, including a 7.7 percent increase for environmental organizations; 5.4 percent increase for human services groups; 4.8 percent increase for arts, culture and humanities organizations; and 2.4 percent increase for health charities.

The most (and least) charitable cities in the U.S.

Charity Navigator's sixth annual study of the top 30 philanthropic markets in the U.S. reveal that charities in Miami, San Diego and Houston are more financially healthy than those in Detroit, Indianapolis and Baltimore.

The study compares the median performance and size of the largest nonprofits in the 30 largest metropolitan markets; these markets account for 55 percent of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator and generate 66 percent of total revenue and spending. The financial health of charities in these areas can be affected by factors such as the cost of living and a market's maturity.

Miami, where charities are growing the fastest, tops the list of most charitable U.S. cities for 2008. Detroit, where charities are among the slowest growing, tops the list of the least charitable U.S. cities for 2008.

Following are the five most charitable U.S. cities:

  1. Miami
  2. San Diego
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Boston

Following are the five least charitable U.S. cities:

  1. Detroit
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Baltimore
  4. Charlotte, N.C.
  5. Portland, Ore.

"This study is the only comprehensive examination of the financial performance of the largest charities in the U.S.," says Charity Navigator Vice President Sandra Miniutti. "Our report highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each philanthropic marketplace. The study is not meant to condemn those who underperform but rather to serve as a tool to help charity leaders start a dialogue across charitable communities to facilitate the implementation of best practices."

Other interesting facts from the report include:

  • Market size: Markets such as New York City (575 large charities), Washington, D.C. (495 large charities), and Los Angeles (185 large charities) are more crowded and competitive than Cincinnati (32 large charities), Nashville (31 large charities) and Charlotte (28 large charities).
  • Chief executive officer compensation: Charity executives in New York City earn an average of $168,646 and in San Diego earn $154,285. This is considerably more than charity executives in Indianapolis, who earn $90,682, and Portland, Ore., who earn $99,521.
  • Fundraising efficiency: Milwaukee's charities are the most efficient when it comes to fundraising; Indianapolis' charities are the least efficient.
  • Wealth: Pittsburgh's largest charities are generally richer in assets and working capital than charities in other parts of the U.S.; charities in Orlando are less financially secure.
  • Donor privacy policy: Seventy-one percent of charities in Milwaukee and 63 percent in Cincinnati have written donor privacy plans; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have the lowest percentage of charities with such policies at 25 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to Tough times call for kind measures.