U.S. Charities and Charitable Donations/Giving

4 minutes

, even though foreign aid comprises less than 1% of the total U.S. federal budget, it still accounted for approximately $23 billion worth of humanitarian assistance and international development in 2013. In addition to this, the U.S. allocated $14 billion to foreign military assistance last year.

U.S. Charitable Culture

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, which has gathered charitable giving statistics from multiple philanthropic organizations and statistics centers, 88% of households, regardless of their net worth, give to charity. 95% of households with a high net worth donated to charity in 2012. Of that 95%, 62% cite "giving back to the community" as a chief motivation for giving. The greatest percentage of high net worth households gave to educational (80%) and basic needs (79%) organizations, followed by 69% to the arts, 65% to health-related organizations, and 65% to religious organizations.

Americans gave $298.3 billion in 2011, the largest source being individuals at $217.79 billion, or 73% of total giving; followed by foundations ($41.67 billion/14%), bequests ($24.41 billion/8%), and corporations ($14.55 billion/5%). The majority of charitable dollars went to religion (32%), education (13%), human services (12%), and grant making foundations (9%). It is estimated that total charitable contributions will total $21.2 - $55.4 trillion between 1998-2052.

Largest U.S. Charities of 2013

According to Forbes, the 25 largest U.S. charities accounted for $30 billion worth of donations. Here are the five largest U.S. charities of 2013:

  1. United Way is the nation's largest charity by donations received, having collected over $3.9 billion from its network of more than 1,300 local affiliates. It created a 10-year program projected to end in 2018 aiming to cut the number of high school drop outs in half (currently at 1.2 million students a year), half the number of lower-income families who are financially unstable, and increase the number of youth and adults who are leading healthy lifestyles that are free of dangerous practices.
  2. The second is the Salvation Army, collecting over $1.9 billion in donations. This organization is well known for their charity work within the U.S., as well as in approximately 120 countries. It offers a variety of services worldwide such as addiction dependency, emergency response, social work, and health-related community development.
  3. Task Force for Global Health helps underserved populations in over 50 countries in three sectors: Health System Strengthening, Immunizations and Vaccines, and Infectious Tropical Diseases. They apply their resources, expertise and partnerships with NGOs, government agencies and private sector partners to address vital pressing health challenges. The organization received $1.7 billion in private gifts in 2013.
  4. Feeding America is a network of over 200 food banks and food rescue organizations that collected $1.5 billion in donations in 2013, mostly in the form of food products. It has set a goal to source 4.3 billion meals annually by 2018.
  5. Catholic Charities USA is a coalition of Catholic nonprofits. It received $1.4 billion in gifts. One of its biggest projects is the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, which aims to alleviate poverty in the United States by endorsing public policies that support families and educating stakeholders and civil society about those living in poverty and the work being done to help them.


In addition to giving money or goods to those in need, Americans offer their time to help others. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, in 2012, one in four adults (26.5%) volunteered through an organization. Altogether, 64.5 million Americans volunteered approximately 7.9 billion hours. The estimated value of the volunteer service is about $175 billion, based on an estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour measured by the Independent Sector. The top four national volunteer activities are fundraising or selling items to raise money (25.7%); collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (23.8%); engaging in general labor or transportation (19.8%); or tutoring or teaching (17.9%).


Americans also volunteer by raising money or offering their time to walks in support of various causes. One can help by fundraising for a certain organization/group that supports the cause or an individual directly affected by the cause. One can walk individually or with a team. Most walks require participants to meet fundraising requirements in order to register for the walk. Walk lengths can vary anywhere from 3 kilometers for a one-day event or a marathon or more (42.195 kilometers) over a 3-day event. Contributions usually fund medical research and programs focused on supporting the cause. Individuals unable to help with the fundraising can instead volunteer on the day of the event by helping at registration tables or cheering on the walkers. Popular walks include the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, AIDS walk, Light the Night Walk, Walk MS, and Relay for Life. InterExchange Career Training USA is also planning a walk in the summer with participants in New York City and potentially some other U.S. cities. Stay tuned!

Are you a current participant who would like to contribute to your U.S. host community? Visit your state's Cultural Compass page, and click on "Help Your Community" to find some suggestions for participating in this great American tradition!

Image courtesy of www.give-true-love.com

Ani Kington Ani Kington

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.

Career Training USA
Career Training USA

Experience American culture and add international skills to your resume.

Sign Up Learn More Call Us
U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation