Charitable giving finally surpasses pre-crisis levels

Bequests jump thanks to generous giants including former Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

By Liz Skinner

Jun 17, 2015 @ 12:01 am EST

Philanthropy reached a record high last year, finally surpassing the amount donated before the recession depressed Americans' charitable giving.

Donations rose 5% in 2014 when adjusted for inflation, to $358.38 billion, just a hair above the pre-recession level of $355.17 billion in 2007, according to the Giving USA 2015 report released Tuesday.

Philanthropic giving fell as low as $303 billion in 2009, a year the world was slipping toward global economic crisis and the markets hit bottom.

Source: Giving USA 2015 report

“This 60-year high for total giving is a great story about resilience and perseverance,” said W. Keith Curtis, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the annual giving report.

Individuals gave 72% of the total last year, while bequests only represented 8% of donations. Bequests, though, showed the greatest percentage increase last year, jumping 13.6% to $28.13 billion, the report found.

Source: Giving USA 2015 report

That jump was in part because some Goliath U.S. estates were settled in 2014, including $1 billion from former Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson.

Mr. Wilson was the second-most generous giver last year, topped only by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which donated $1.9 billion, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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