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A free box in Berlin, Germany, 2005, serving as a distribution center for free donated materials

A donation is a gift for charity, humanitarian aid, or to benefit a cause. A donation may take various forms, including money, alms, services, or goods such as clothing, toys, food, or vehicles. A donation may satisfy medical needs such as blood or organs for transplant.

Charitable donations of goods or services are also called gifts in kind.[1]

Donating statistics[edit]

Almajiri children eating food they received through donation
A blood collection bus (bloodmobile) from Children's Hospital Boston at a manufacturing facility in Massachusetts: Blood banks sometimes use a modified bus or similar large vehicle to provide mobile facilities for donation.

In the United States, in 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that American households in the lowest fifth in terms of wealth, gave on average a higher percentage of their incomes to charitable organizations than those households in the highest fifth.[2] Charity Navigator writes that, according to Giving USA, Americans gave $298 billion in 2011 (about 2% of GDP).[3] The majority of donations were from individuals (73%), then from bequests (about 12%), foundations (2%) and less than 1% from corporations. The largest sector to receive donations was religious organizations (32%), then education (13%). Giving has increased in 3 out of 4 years since 1971 (with the occasional declines occurring around recession years).[3]

Blackbaud reports that, in the US, online giving in 2012 grew by 11% on a year-over-year basis. The percentage of total fundraising that comes from online giving was about 7% in 2012. This was an increase from 6% in 2011 and is nearing the record level of 8% from 2010 when online giving spiked in response to Haitian earthquake relief efforts. Steve MacLaughlin notes in the report that "the Internet has now become the first-response channel of choice for donors during disasters and other emergency events."[4]

Blackbaud's 2015 Charitable Giving report revealed a 9% increase in online donations compared to 2014. In addition, online giving represented 7% of overall fundraising, with 14% of all online donations made on mobile devices. Donations made on the international online giving day #GivingTuesday were up 52% from the previous year.[5]

Legal aspects[edit]

Donations are given without return consideration. This lack of return consideration means that, in common law, an agreement to make a donation is an "imperfect contract void for want of consideration."[6] Only when the donation is actually made does it acquire legal status as a transfer or property.[7]

In politics, the law of some countries may prohibit or restrict the extent to which politicians may accept gifts or donations of large sums of money, especially from business or lobby groups (see campaign finance). Donations of money or property to qualifying charitable organizations are also usually tax deductible. Because this reduces the state's tax income, calls have been raised that the state (and the public in general) should pay more attention towards ensuring that charities actually use this 'tax money' in suitable ways.

There have been discussions on whether also a donation of time should be tax deductible.[8]

The person or institution giving a gift is called the donor, and the person or institution getting the gift is called the donee.[7]

Donating in the name of others[edit]

It is possible to donate in the name of a third party, making a gift in honor or in memory of someone or something. Gifts in honor or memory of a third party are made for various reasons, such as holiday gifts, wedding gifts, in memory of somebody who has died, in memory of pets or in the name of groups or associations no longer existing. Memorial gifts are sometimes requested by their survivors (e.g. "in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to ABC Charity"), usually directing donations to a charitable organization for which the deceased was a donor or volunteer, or for a cause befitting the deceased's priorities in life or manner of death. Memorial donations are also sometimes given by people if they are unable to attend the ceremony.

Donating anonymously[edit]

There are also circumstances when people like to donate funds to their preferred causes by not revealing their names. Many donors such as public figures or philanthropists like to stay anonymous while making generous donations according to their wishes. Many donors like to stay anonymous because of their religious beliefs or simply don't want any notoriety from giving.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In-Kind Gifts: How to Acknowledge and Recognize Them". 5 March 2008.
  2. ^ Frank Greve (19 May 2009). "America's poor are its most generous givers". McClathy Newspapers. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Giving Statistics : Charity Navigator". Charity Navigator. Archived from the original on 5 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  4. ^ The 2012 Charitable Giving Report\", Steve MacLaughlin
  5. ^ "2015 Charitable Giving Report – Blackbaud Institute". Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  6. ^ William Blackstone, quoted in Public Domain Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Donation". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. ^ Peter Baird: Charitable deductions for pro bono publico professional services: an updated carrot and stick approach Archived 2015-05-09 at the Wayback Machine, Texas Law Review, Vol. 50, Nr. 5, 1972
  8. ^ Crowdfunding for Emergencies Archived 2016-04-24 at the Wayback Machine, by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs