What is the real rise in nonprofit giving?
After adjusting for inflation, charitable giving by Americans is more than 6½ times as big in 2014 as it was 60 years earlier.
Of course, one reason total giving went up is because the U.S. population almost doubled. But if we recalculate inflation-adjusted charitable giving on a per capita basis, we see that has also soared: by almost 3½ times. Charitable causes are very lucky to have a remarkably expansive American economy behind them, and a standard of living that refuses to stagnate.
What if we calculate charitable giving as a proportion of all national production (GDP)? The math reveals that over the last 60 years, donations as a proportion of our total annual output increased—but only very slightly. For most of the last lifetime, giving has hovered right around 2 percent of our total national treasure.
Two percent of GDP is a huge sum, particularly in comparison to other countries (see details on that at Graph 27). But it’s interesting that even as we have become a much wealthier people in the post-WWII era, the fraction we give away hasn’t risen. There seems to be something stubborn about that 2 percent rate.