As the U.S. economy slowly improves, so does Americans' willingness to give money to charity. In fact, 2010 ended a two-year decline in giving, according to charity tracker Giving USA Foundation. It reports that $291 billion was donated in the U.S. in 2010, an increase of 2.1%. How does that stack up to previous years?
Giving USA provides a historical chart:
As you can see, charity fell pretty far after the recession hit in 2007. Over a two-year period, it dropped 12.8%, if inflation is taken into account. But the inflation-adjusted high was actually hit a few years earlier in 2005.
In 2010, charity grew a bit but still remains well below those levels. On a relative historical basis, however, it's still pretty high. It slightly exceeds the inflation-adjusted value in 2000, making it more than in any year prior to 2004.
Of course, not all charities benefitted equally by the growth in giving. USA Giving reports that religious giving actually declined by an inflation-adjusted 0.8%. International aid organizations, however, did much better. They saw charitable giving rise by an inflation-adjusted 13.5%.
The relatively small increase in overall giving makes sense in the context of the anemic recovery. Since Americans haven't felt the economy improve that much, they aren't parting with that much more of their money. As the U.S. economy slowly heals, charitable giving should continue to slowly rise.