Americans are feeling more charitable during the pandemic

·3 min read

Even amid a pandemic and economic uncertainty, people around the world stepped up their generosity to help their neighbors, according to one measure of charitable donations.

Around 34.8 million participated in Giving Tuesday last year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. That was a 29% increase over 2019, according to GivingTuesday, the nonprofit with the eponymous charitable giving campaign. Americans gave $2.47 billion on that single day in 2020, up from $1.97 billion the year before, representing a 25% increase.

Read more: How to make the most of your charitable donations during the pandemic

“Certainly, economic uncertainty is a suppressing factor on people's giving,” said Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer for GivingTuesday. “But the desire to address the challenges and concerns in communities has so far outweighed any of those suppressing influences.”

Around 34.8 million participated in Giving Tuesday last year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving that encourages charitable giving. That was a 29% increase over 2019, according to GivingTuesday, the nonprofit with the eponymous charitable giving campaign. (Photo: Getty)
Around 34.8 million participated in Giving Tuesday last year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving that encourages charitable giving. That was a 29% increase over 2019, according to GivingTuesday, the nonprofit with the eponymous charitable giving campaign. (Photo: Getty)

Another trend that emerged last year: lower-level donors outsized large and midsize donors, Rosenbaum said. Total giving was up 8%, but smaller donations were up nearly 20%, meaning that individuals who had maybe $20 to spare donated to charities for the first time.

“This really speaks to how people are thinking about everybody who's in their community,” Rosenbaum said, “and how they can support them.”

Read more: Coronavirus: The best ways to help others in need

To the benefit of the nation’s hamstrung food banks, Michael Flood, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank’s president and CEO, told Yahoo Money. His food bank saw donations shoot up 153% from 2019 to 2020, helping to fill in gaps from increased need.

The generosity hasn’t been limited to nonprofit organizations.

People are “really thinking about everybody who's in their community and how they're suffering and how they want to help and the institutions,” he said, noting that sentiment has spurred a movement to donate to small businesses, restaurants, or individual workers for a change.

Non-monetary donations were up as well in 2020, according to GivingTuesday, with nearly 10 million Americans donating goods or food, clothing. (Photo: Getty)
Non-monetary donations were up as well in 2020, according to GivingTuesday, with nearly 10 million Americans donating goods or food, clothing. (Photo: Getty)

“Prior to 2020, that wasn't really a category at all, right?” he said. “Nobody was going to their florist and making a donation in 2019.”

Non-monetary donations were up as well in 2020, according to GivingTuesday, with nearly 10 million Americans donating goods or food, clothing.

“That really meant a lot for those small community-based organizations to be able to have an opportunity to tap into the community-minded zeitgeist,” Rosenbaum said.

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The U.S. government also helped to persuade more giving during the pandemic. One of the CARES Act provisions changed the tax code so that taxpayers who took the standard deduction could still deduct up to $300 in cash donations for the 2020 tax year. Typically, only taxpayers who itemize their taxes can take a charitable donation deduction, representing about 10% of the population.

The new stimulus deal passed in December extends and improves that deduction. For 2021, individuals can deduct up to $300, while joint filers can deduct up to $600 in charitable contributions, a new addition.

“[But] generosity is an antidote [to] uncertainty and division and fear,” Rosenbaum said. “People are looking for an opportunity to have agency to make their communities stronger, and they've been expressing that throughout, in perhaps unprecedented numbers.”

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Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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