Americans donated $307.7 billion in 2008, with $6.6 billion going toward animal and environment organizations, according to Giving USA, a publication of the Giving USA Foundation.
The report was researched and written by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Overall charitable giving was down from $314.1 billion in 2007, a record year since the annual report on philanthropy began in 1956.
The animal/environment subsector, which represents 2 percent of total estimated giving, saw a 5.5 percent drop from the year before.
“With the United States mired in a recession throughout 2008, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that charitable giving would be down,” said Del Martin, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation. “However, what we find remarkable is that individuals, corporations and foundations still provided more than $307 billion to causes they support, despite the economic conditions.
“It would have been easy to say ‘not this year’ when appeals came their way, and we definitely did see belt-tightening. This drop in giving meant that nonprofits have had to do more with less over the past year, but it could have been a lot worse.”
Other recipients of contributions in 2008 included those involved with religion (35 percent of total estimated giving), education (13 percent), human services (9 percent), health (7 percent), public-society benefit (8 percent), arts/culture/humanities (4 percent), international affairs (4 percent), individuals (1 percent), foundations (11 percent) and unallocated giving (6 percent).
Giving by individuals, always the largest component of charitable contributions, was $229.3 billion, or 75 percent of the total, in 2008, according to the report. This was a decrease of 2.7 percent compared with 2007 estimates.
Charitable bequests brought in $22.7 billion in 2008, a decline of 2.8 percent. This component makes up about 7 percent of total giving.
Corporate giving, about 5 percent of charitable giving, decreased by 4.5 percent, to $14.5 billion.
Foundation grant-making increased by 3 percent to $41.2 billion, representing 13 percent of total giving in 2008.
The Giving USA 2009 report will be available in early July.