Who’s Raising the Most: The 100 Charities that are America’s Favorites


by Drew Lindsay

America’s growing economic divide is creating new fault lines in society – this time, in the charity world.

Nonprofits backed by America’s affluent thrived in the past decade, far outpacing their “blue collar” counterparts as they tapped the post-recession wealth that accrued to the rich. Giving soared to wealth-driven institutions like the Mayo Clinic and Harvard while falling off significantly at the United Way and other household-name charities that rely on donations from average Americans.

That’s according to a new Chronicle of Philanthropy ranking of the 100 charities that raised the most in cash and stock contributions in 2017. The ranking, called America’s Favorite Charities, identifies the organizations that Americans are most willing to open their wallets to support.

Collectively, these organizations brought in $47 billion in cash contributions, about 11 percent of all giving last year.

The ranking features both the familiar (American Red Cross, which ranks No. 18) and the unexpected (the Barack Obama Foundation, No. 82). It includes groups born before the American Revolution (Harvard, No. 4), just after the Civil War (Mayo Clinic, No. 5), and at the dawn of the 21st century (Wounded Warrior, No. 95). One is known for its red kettles (Salvation Army, No. 2), another for its Facebook-famous founder and his physician wife (Chan Zuckerburg Biohub, No. 22).

Chasing the Wealthy
Colleges and hospitals, which typically run robust big-gift operations that court the wealthy, account for 49 of the groups on the debut list. Charitable support of these institutions climbed 44 percent from 2007 through 2017, even after adjusting for inflation. Among the high fliers were Mayo (up 202 percent), the University of Notre Dame (No. 39; up 100 percent), and the University of Nebraska (No. 96; up 77 percent).

Giving grew less than 4 percent at the remaining organizations in the ranking. Their financial support actually dropped 7 percent if you remove from that set a half-dozen additional groups that rely almost exclusively on corporations, foundations, or a handful of donors with deep pockets.

Groups posting severe declines included revered giants such as the American Cancer Society (No. 14; down 34 percent), the Jewish Federations of North America (No. 75; down 41 percent), and the biggest of them all, United Way Worldwide (No. 1; down 28 percent).

These numbers mirror other data indicating that the share of Americans who give to charity declined after the recession, particularly in moderate-income households. As the middle class has been hollowed out over the decade, so has the small-donation giving that organizations like United Way were built upon, argues Brian Gallagher, United Way chief executive. “The question of the health of the United Way is almost a question of the health of middle-income philanthropy,” he says. “There’s not a healthy middle right now in the country.”

By the Numbers
A breakdown of America’s favorite charities by type of group. READ MORE…