Giving to Public-Society Benefit

2017 5.2 2018 5.4

Giving to health includes cash and non-cash donations from itemizing and non-itemizing U.S. households to U.S. health charities, including nonprofit community health centers, hospitals, and nursing homes; organizations focused on the treatment and/or cure of specific diseases; emergency medical services; wellness and health promotion; mental healthcare; health research; and other types of health organizations.

Giving to public-society benefit is predicted to increase by 5.2% in 2017 and by 5.4% in 2018.*

The current projections for giving to public-society benefit for the years 2017 and 2018 are higher than the historical 10-year and 25-year average rates of growth for giving of this type, but lower than the 40-year annualized average rate of growth.36

Specific factors that will significantly and positively influence public-society benefit giving in 2017 and 2018 include:

  • Above-average growth in the S&P 500,
  • Above-average growth in total giving, and
  • Growth in consumer expenditures on foreign travel.37

The above three factors account for the majority of the predicted growth in giving to public-society benefit in these years.

As these results reveal, giving to the public-society benefit subsector is sensitive to giving on the donor side of the giving equation. This should be no surprise, as several different types of giving vehicles are included within this subsector, including donor-advised funds, United Ways, and federated charities. The public-benefit subsector, in particular, has seen growth in recent years in the use of innovative mechanisms that foster social impact, including impact investing and highly focused funding approaches.38

Growth in giving to the public-society benefit subsector also appears to be positively influenced by economic environments that are conducive to the growth of luxury expenditures, such as foreign travel. This outcome implies that this particular subsector may not be as resistant to economic downturns as than other areas of giving. In addition, giving to public-society benefit tends to be affected by trends that influence consumer behavior among high-income households.

Table 1

Historical Annualized Averages for Giving

10-Year Average 25-Year Average 40-Year Average

Total Giving

0.5% 4.4% 4.9%

Giving by


-0.1% 3.4% 3.9%

Giving by


4.9% 13.8% 17.6%

Giving by


0.9% 6.3% 5.6%

Giving by


0.0% 3.5% 6.6%

Giving to


3.5% 6.7% 7.7%

Giving to


2.1% 4.5% 2.1%

Giving to

Public-Socity Benefit

0.7% 5.1% 10.0%

These data are drawn from historical giving data found in Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015. Data are adjusted for inflation to 2015 dollars.

* All growth rates are based on predictions for giving in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars using 2016 as the base year. The Philanthropy Outlook projects the growth rates of variables into 2017 and 2018; predicted growth rates are compared with the variables’ historical 10-, 25-, and 40-year annualized means. See Table 1 for these data.