There's More Giving, But Not For Human Services

The recessionary economic climate last year didn't dampen Americans' philanthropic instincts. According to the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, donations to nonprofit organizations jumped by 6.21%, to $124.77 billion. That's the biggest percent of gross domestic product (2.2%) since the aafrc began keeping tabs on total giving in 1959. What's more, giving by individuals hit 2.13% of personal income, its highest level in 21 years.

Although most causes racked up gains, the report's biggest surprise was a sharp decline in giving to human service groups, such as social and family service agencies, shelters, and food distribution programs, whose needs jump during recessions. Whereas such giving rose appreciably during the 1982 downturn and continued to grow during the expansion, it fell in 1990 and then dropped again in 1991--by $1.2 billion, or 10.2% in current dollars and 14.3% in real terms. The aafrc notes that the drop was doubly painful because government support for private human service programs also declined last year.

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