New York — Americans donated $39.6 billion to charitable causes in 1978 (the latest year for which official data are available), more than double the amount given a decade ago, the Conference Board reports.
Individuals contributed $32.8 billion, or about 83 percent of all philanthropic donations. Corporations gave $2 billion, and foundations and bequests contributed the remaining $4.8 billion.
Religious organizations, which are financed solely by voluntary donations, received the largest portion of the contributions dollar -- 46.5 percent or $18. 5 billion. The next highest recipients were education and health, which received about $5.5 billion each. The arts received $2.5 billion.
The average individual contribution in 1977 was $749 -- 2.3 percent of disposable income -- up from $364 in 1970, according to Internal Revenue Service figures. However, since the IRS has liberalized the standard deduction over the past few years, fewer people are itemizing deductions, a trend that arouses concern among organizations dependent upon these donations.
Lower income families ($5,000 to $6,000) give 85.6 percent of their charitable contributions to religious ororganizations while higher income families ($25,000 and over) gave only 59.3 percent.