Giving to Arts and Culture Rose to $13 Billion in 2011

David Bohnett
David Bohnett, chairman of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a venture capitalist at Baroda Ventures. Bohnett said company donations to the symphony remain "very depressed,'' and a Giving USA Foundation report on U.S. giving shows a 0.1 percent drop in corporate donations to $14.6 billion in 2011. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Donations to the arts in the U.S. rose about 4.1 percent in 2011, to $13.1 billion, according to a report released today by the Giving USA Foundation.

Such gifts fell 2.9 percent in 2009, the year following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and then rose about 5.7 percent in 2010. Arts and culture organizations received 4 percent of U.S. charitable donations last year.

“We’re seeing giving to the arts recover and mega-gifts return,” said Una Osili, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which compiled the data for the Giving USA study. “Gifts to the arts are basically responding to trends in the economy.”

Total charitable gifts rose to $298.4 billion in 2011 from about $286.9 billion the year before. International-affairs organizations had the sharpest growth, a 7.6 percent increase to $22.7 billion.

Gifts to religious organizations, which receive the largest portion of charitable gifts at 32 percent, had a 1.7 percent decline in donations to $95.9 billion. A decrease in church attendance is partly responsible, Osili said.

Health-related nonprofits rose 2.7 percent to $24.8 billion in 2011; human services had a 2.5 percent increase to $35.4 billion; and education went up 4 percent to $38.9 billion. Gifts to environmental and animal organizations, which receive 3 percent of donations, rose 4.6 percent.

Modest Rise

The Center on Philanthropy’s executive director, Patrick Rooney, said in a statement that giving in the U.S. has had its second-slowest recovery “following any recession since 1971.”

“Giving is going up modestly along with a modest economic recovery, but it’s going to take some time to recover,” Osili said. “If giving continues at this rate, it may take a decade before we recover and return to 2007 pre-recession levels of giving.”

While some nonprofits saw individuals’ gifts improve, corporate donations declined 0.1 percent to $14.6 billion.

At the Los Angeles Philharmonic, some corporate sponsors have reduced their donations, board chairman David Bohnett said in a phone interview. Ticket sales cover 60 percent of its budget with the rest coming from companies, individuals and foundations.

“There’s no more normal in terms of corporate philanthropy,” Bohnett said. “It remains very depressed.”

The Center on Philanthropy’s estimates are based on data compiled from tax filings to the Internal Revenue Service and information from other organizations such as the Foundation Center, the Council for Aid to Education and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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