How America Spends Its Donation Dollars

Americans are a giving bunch. Last year we donated 353.8 billion dollars to various causes. This according to Giving USA, a synopsis of American giving that has been published yearly since 1955.

Think 353.8 billion sounds like a lot of money? That’s because it is. With a country of 318 million, that’s an average of $1110 per person. And I’d be willing to wager at least $1110 that babies are pulling that number down.

baby dancing to the beat

Fine, baby. If you’re going to be that smooth I’ll forgive you…

The Donation Breakdown for 2014

pie chart showing American's donations in 2015
  • Religion: $114.9 billion
  • Education: $54.62 billion
  • Foundations: $41.62 billion
  • Human Services: $41.1 billion
  • Health: $30.37 billion
  • Public-Society Benefit: $26.29 billion
  • Art/Culture/Humanities: $17.23 billion
  • International Affairs: $15.1 billion
  • Environment/Animals: $10.5 billion

When it comes to donations it looks like religion leads the way, and by a long shot. This isn’t all that surprising. Faith is still running mighty strong in America. Plus, most religions are extremely well-organized and have their fundraising practices down pat. Their members are usually born into it and feel an obligation to give. And most religions espouse giving as an important moral responsibility, not just to their respective church, temple or mosque, but to the world. That sounds like a recipe for giving to me!

If you think about it, that’s likely why the Foundations sector does so well. They generated $41.62 billion dollars in 2014. They’re established, organized groups with predictable donation streams. And they make their cause a sort of “religion” in itself.

If I had to choose one segment to bump up this list, I think I’d have to go with Environment/Animals. Now don’t get me wrong. International Affairs is a mighty important sector. But I’ve got a little pup at home tugging on the heart-strings:

cute little pup named JD

I hardly think you can blame me!

All Those Donations In Perspective

But seriously, 354 billion dollars is a lot of money. That’s more than the gross domestic product of Denmark! Or Egypt. Or Finland. In fact, the United States of Giving would be the 33rd largest economy on Earth, right below Thailand and above South Africa. Pretty impressive!

So how much does 354 billion buy in the real world? Well, if we were to go on a skyscraper kick in 2016 and donate Every Dollar to Getting Taller, we’d be able to build 90 World Trade Centers!

six world trade centers

Perhaps 90 skyscrapers is a little excessive? Oh, I’ve got it! Let’s buy a billion X-Box Ones! That’s 8 X-Boxes for every US household! Considering Microsoft has only sold 12.8 million consoles to date, I guarantee you Bill Gates is on board with this plan, too.

bill gates is happy

The shareholders are gonna’ be sooo happy!

Okay, okay. It’s not likely we’ll be buying a billion X-Boxes or re-imagining the world’s tallest buildings list anytime soon. And I really don’t think, for instance, that we’ll suddenly decide to build 1874007 very average US homes. But the endless opportunities are certainly fun to think about!

PS – The above gif shows Bill Gates happily drinking poop water. It’s a really interesting concept. You should click the link and check it out!

PPS – For more on American Giving in 2014, head on over to the Nonprofit Times!