Economic woes could hit small charities hard, researchers say
Americans donated a record $306bn (£155bn) to charity last year, despite worries over the state of the US economy, an annual study has found.
The report, complied for the Giving USA Foundation by Indiana University, shows donations were up 1% on 2006.
But researchers say charities are worried that economic troubles will hit donation totals for 2008.
Most donations came from individuals while religious congregations were the biggest recipients with some $102bn.
The total in charitable donations surpassed $300bn for the first time in 2007, a 1% rise when adjusted for inflation, the Giving USA report said.
Del Martin, head of the Giving USA Foundation, said the slight growth was encouraging, but she said totals for this year may be down.
"Charities we surveyed have concerns about 2008 for the economy and the stock market and the impact they will have on giving," she said.
Ms Martin said the smaller charities were the most vulnerable to any reduction in giving.
Individual donations, which account for the bulk of the total, fell slightly to an estimated $229bn - a 1% fall, while corporate giving declined 1% to $15.7bn.
Donations from private foundations and bequests increased, to $38.5bn and $23bn respectively.
The biggest recipients were religious congregations which received gifts of $102.3bn, followed by educational organisations which were given a total of $43.3bn.
Meanwhile, charities say demand for their services amid the economic downturn is rising.
Requests for emergency help have increased 28% at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, its president, Edward Orzechowski, told the Washington Post.
"When times are tough, people are willing to dig deeper," he said.
But, he said, "when demand rises to the degree that it is, there's no way we can meet that demand, even with increased giving."