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Charitable giving is up, especially online giving
Americans gave more than $18.2 billion to charity in 2015, a 1.6 percent increase over 2014 that reflects the strengthening economy. Religious causes receive the most money each year, and December and June are the most popular months to donate. - photo by Allison Pond
Americans gave more than $18.2 billion to charity in 2015, a 1.6 percent increase over 2014 that reflects the strengthening economy, according to a new report from nonprofit services provider Blackbaud. This is the fourth year in a row Blackbaud has charted an increase in giving.

The percentage of donations made online was up 9.2 percent, with online donations accounting for 7.1 percent of all fundraising in 2015. International affairs organizations and faith-based organizations saw the biggest increases in giving overall, while higher education organizations saw the biggest surge from online giving, the report found.

Religious causes receive the most money each year. In 2014, 39 percent of all donations went to religion, a broad category that includes support for houses of worship and clergy as well as sub-causes like relief for the poor, medical care, education or disaster relief, according to The Almanac of American Philanthropy, a 1,300-page reference published this week by the Philanthropy Roundtable.

The almanac contains a detailed history of philanthropy by sector, a compilation of important books, articles and quotes about giving, and pages of statistics in graphical form. It also includes profiles of important philanthropists in American history, highlighting well-known figures like Andrew Carnegie and Benjamin Franklin alongside lesser known luminaries like Ima Hogg, one of the most admired philanthropists in Texas history who promoted causes from the fine arts to mental health. (She also, according to the almanac, "would spend most of her life contending with wisecracks that she had sisters named 'Ura' and 'Hoosa.' She didnt.")

In addition to large donors and foundations, the vast majority of Americans donate to charity. According to Gallup, more than 8 in 10 people report giving money each year while approximately 6 in 10 report volunteering.

The most generous state per capita is Utah, where residents give an average of 4.8 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity each year, according to analyses by the Urban Institute. In second place is the District of Columbia, followed by Maryland, Wyoming and New York.

The Urban Institute also noted that most giving to nonprofits comes from individuals, who contributed 72 percent of all 2014 dollars to charity. Foundations were responsible for 15 percent, bequests for 8 percent and corporations for 5 percent.

The most popular months to donate are December and June the end of the calendar year and the fiscal year, according to Blackbaud, when fundraisers are pushing to meet year-end goals.