The ins and outs of charitable giving

I sit on the board of the Phoenix Zoo, and we held a board retreat recently. The zoo receives almost no funding from governmental sources. Nearly all our money comes from admission receipts/memberships, special events, donations and miscellaneous sources such as concession and gift shop sales.

Our retreat topic focused on becoming more effective at gaining philanthropic support for the zoo. (If you’d like to get involved, go here.) My main purpose today, however, is to share with you some of the data we received about the sources of philanthropic money and the institutions that receive it. The data were compiled by the Giving Institute.

In 2010, the latest year for which information is available, charitable giving in the U.S. totaled about $290 billion. Here’s where the money came from:

Here are the categories of institutions that received the money:

Type of InstitutionPercentage of Charitable Dollars
Religion35
Education14
Grant Making Foundations11
Human Services 9
Public-Society Benefit 8
Health 8
Arts, Culture, Humanities 5
International Affairs 5
Environment/Animals 2
Foundation Grants to Individuals 2
Unallocated 1

As you’re thinking about your own charitable giving, know that it’s not getting any easier for nonprofit organizations. Between 1995 and 2010, the number of nonprofits hoping for your support has grown nationwide from about 500,000 to 1.3 million. During that same time, we have experienced some of the toughest economic times of most of our lives, and such experiences make us all nervous about giving our money away.

Do what you can, and then think about doing a little more. There’s a lot of good work being done by nonprofits, so find a few you like and give them your support. If you believe in conservation, education and bringing families together, your zoo (or mine) could use your help.

 

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