CULTURE MONSTER

Arts philanthropy booming, cultural giving rises 9.2%, new study says

Americans' donation to arts, culture and humanities grew 9.2% in 2014, fastest of all philanthropic sectors

Americans’ donations to arts and culture rose 9.2% in 2014, the highest increase in nine categories tracked by Giving USA, an annual report on charitable contributions.

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FOR THE RECORD

June 17, 2:21 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that donations to arts and culture rose 9.4% in 2014. The correct figure is 9.2%.

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Overall, however, arts and culture commanded a modest share of the philanthropic pie. Estimated gifts to arts and culture totaled $17.2 billion, according to the report compiled by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Although that was a record high, it represented only 4.8% of the $358.4-billion total.

Giving to all charitable sectors rose 5.5% in a year when investment markets remained generally favorable -- a key factor for many affluent donors.

The report attributed much of the overall growth to large gifts between $200 million and nearly $2 billion. “The majority of these mega-gifts were given by relatively young tech entrepreneurs,” said a summary of the report issued Monday.

Arts, culture and the humanities was the seventh-ranked recipient, ahead of international affairs ($15.1 billion) and environment and animals ($10.5 billion), but far behind the perennial leader, religion ($114.9 billion). Other categories were education ($54.6 billion), contributions to foundations ($41.6 billion), human services ($42.1 billion), health ($30.4 billion) and public benefit organizations such as the United Way and Jewish federations ($26.3 billion).

Gifts to individuals -- as opposed to organizations -- totaled $6.4 billion -- most of it the value of free healthcare. (We have asked why the individual categories do not add up to the $358.4 billion total and will update this post when we have the answer.)

Some of the money donated in other categories eventually gets funneled to arts and culture. For example, Giving USA counts gifts for arts facilities and instruction on college campuses under the education heading, instead of as gifts to the arts.

Giving to religious institutions grew 2.5% during 2014, but its share of the pie continued to shrink in what the report describes as “a 30-year dramatic downward slide.”

In the 1980s, religion commanded 53% of America's philanthropic dollars; now, with fewer people identifying with a religion or attending worship services, the figure is 32% percent. The "Giving USA" summary attributes the change to baby boomers being less religious than their parents, with “younger age groups … following the same path.”

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