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June 16, 2021

American Generosity Flourished During the Pandemic

Charitable giving increased in 2020 by 5% over the prior year.

Despite a global pandemic that precipitated an economic lockdown resulting in millions of people losing their jobs, American generosity did not likewise take a downturn. Instead, because of the pandemic, the American people became even more generous. According to a newly released report, Americans’ charitable giving in 2020 increased over the year prior by more than 5%.

“Total charitable giving grew 5.1% measured in current dollars over the revised total of $448.66 billion contributed in 2019,” the Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2020 found. “Adjusted for inflation, total giving increased 3.8%.” Individual giving increased by 2.2% to $324.1 billion, setting a record for the highest dollar amount.

Interestingly, giving to churches only rose 1% over 2019 levels. Una Osili, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University associate dean for research and international programs, attributed this to physical restrictions imposed during the pandemic. Osili noted, “Reduced attendance often leads to less contributions.”

However, Osili also identified the rising number of so-called “nones” — individuals without any religious affiliations — as having a future impact on charitable giving as well. “Younger households are less likely to attend services and affiliate,” Osili points out. “A very large [part] of charitable giving overall is correlated with attending services frequently, and also [with religious] affiliation.” That could mean American charity wanes in the coming years.

Yet it’s refreshing to learning that Americans are still by and large very generous folks who are concerned with helping those in need. Even the growing numbers of irreligious Americans should serve as a motivating factor for religious ones, especially Christians, to reach out and share not only their wealth but more importantly their faith. That’s not so much to ensure that America’s generous spirit continues, but rather because the truest generosity is found in a willingness to love people, and especially those who may be the hardest to love.

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