Philanthropy in America

100 years of giving back

2014 marked the centennial anniversary of the first-ever community foundation. Frederick Goff founded the Cleveland Foundation in 1914 as a “community savings account.”

Shortly thereafter, foundations began springing up around the country to better serve local communities. Today, there are more than 700 community foundations across the U.S., from which millions of donors give an estimated $4.2 billion.

The creation of the community foundation model allowed people of more modest means to leverage the collective desire to improve society. You no longer had to be a Rockefeller or Carnegie to participate in philanthropy!

$316 billion

Total giving to charitable organizations in 2012 was $316.23 billion in 2012 (about 2% of GDP). This is an increase of 3.5% from 2011.

Ups and downs

In 2012 giving by bequest was $22.14 billion (down a whopping 7%), foundations gave $47.44 billion (up 4.4%), and corporations donated $18.97 billion (up 12.2%).


88% of American households gave an average of $2,213 with a median of $870 in 2011. While larger contributions from the wealthy individuals account for a part of that average, the majority came from people making less than $250,000 a year.

Source: National Philanthropic Trust