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December 17, 2014

Causes Favored By Wealthy Gain Most in Giving Rebound

Gains in giving that have brought U.S. donations nearly back to pre-recession levels have skewed toward major education, medical, and arts institutions, reflecting the charitable impulses of upper-income donors, Bloomberg writes. Big charities that serve the needy such as the United Way and the Salvation Army are losing ground to donor-advised funds, a form of giving increasingly favored by the wealthy.

Donations of $80-million or more were a key factor in driving total giving to $335.2-billion last year, according to figures from the Giving USA Foundation. Households with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $1-million primarily give to higher education, health organizations, and cultural groups, Giving USA found.

The favored causes of the well-to-do "are gaining in share in the philanthropic economy,” reflecting a larger wealth inequality, said Rob Reich, an associate professor of political science at Stanford University. Overall giving by the wealthy is rising "not because they're giving away a greater share of their income," he said, but because "their total income and wealth itself has grown."