Sandy relief a bright spot in charitable giving report

Americans and U.S. companies donated $316 billion last year.

It’s the third straight year of modest gains in giving, on track with the nation’s slow recovery from the depths of recession.

“While I bemoan the fact that Americans aren’t as generous as they could be, I still applaud them for being generous,” said Robert Evans, a member of the editorial board of the Giving USA Foundation, and the founder of the Willow Grove, Pa.-based EHL Consulting Group.

In partnership with Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, he and others pieced together the annual Giving USA report (PDF).

While 2012 was far from a banner year, Evans says Superstorm Sandy relief efforts were a bright spot, accounting for $400 million in donations.

“Americans still have great capacity to give, and they’re waiting for impact,” said Evans. “That’s why giving to Sandy relief was really one of the important points — donors could make impact, and they could see impact, and that’s why they responded so generously.”

Overall donations are still down from their peak in 2007 of $344.5 billion. Experts says the strength of charitable giving lags behind the strength of the economy itself.

Evans estimates it will take another five or six years to get back to pre-recession levels.

“Donors aren’t giving to capacity,” said Evans. “Americans do want to give, but they’re being slow to return to the levels that we saw prior to the great recession of 2007.”

Giving USA officials will be in Philadelphia Wednesday morning to present their findings at a reception at the Union League.

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