Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Private Funding
 
Charitable Giving for Humanities Activities
(Updated February 2017)

Given the comparatively limited financial support for the humanities from the federal government (see, for example, the indicator on funding for humanities research), a substantial share of funding for humanities work comes from foundations and individuals. Support from these charitable sources fell substantially after the economic recession that started in 2007 and surpassed the prerecession level only in 2015.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, giving from corporations, foundations, and individuals to arts, culture, and humanities (ACH) organizations reached $17.1 billion—the highest level on record in inflation-adjusted dollars (Indicator IV-7). According to the Giving USA report, many ACH organizations launched large-scale fundraising campaigns in 2015.[1]
  • Donations from charitable sources to ACH organizations increased almost 250% from 1985 to 2000 (rising from $4.2 billion to $14.5 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars) and then experienced another surge up to $17.1 billion in 2007. With the recession came a sharp curtailment of charitable giving to these organizations, with donated monies declining 21% (to $13.5 billion) in 2008—a much steeper drop than for total charitable giving (7.2%).[2]
  • In recent years, the growth in charitable giving to ACH organizations has outpaced the growth in giving to all organizations. From its low point in 2008, giving to the humanities has risen 26.2%, while overall giving has risen at only about half that rate (13.2%). In 2015, ACH organizations’ share of all gifts reached 4.6%, which is close to the highest recorded level.
IV-7: Individual, Corporate, and Foundation Giving to Arts, Culture, and Humanities Organizations, Total and as a Percentage of All Charitable Giving, 1985–2015 (Adjusted for Inflation)
Source: Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015 (Chicago: Giving USA Foundation, 2016). Data presented by American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators (humanitiesindicators.org). Inflation adjustment calculated using the Consumer Price Index calculator available from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Endnotes

[1] Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015 (Chicago: Giving USA Foundation, 2016), 249.
[2] See Supporting Table IV-7 for information regarding total giving.