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.
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. Charity Navigator writes that, according to Giving USA, Americans gave $298 billion in 2011 (about 2% of GDP). 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).
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."
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.
In Australia, donation statistics are made available annually by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), in the form of detailed tables breaking down the items in the individual tax return by gender, age, income, and state/territory. In Australia, individuals submit an income tax return based on their personal income levels and source(s). Unlike in other Western jurisdictions, income tax returns cannot be submitted as a couple or household, and standard deductions are not available for donations.
The most recent year of available data (2019–2020) covers the Australian bushfire summer as well as the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019–20, 14.9 million Australians submitted a tax return, and 4.3 million claimed a gift made to an organisation endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR). The total amount donated and claimed as tax-deductible donations in 2019–20 in Australia was $3.85 billion (compared to $3.93 billion for the previous income year). This constitutes a decrease of 2.11 per cent or $83 million from the previous income year. The average tax-deductible donation made to DGRs and claimed by Australian taxpayers in 2019–20 was $886.75 (compared to $933.20 in the previous income year). This is a decrease of 4.98 per cent.
It is important to note that the ATO data in no way represents all gifts, being limited to giving by individual taxpayers to DGRs. Furthermore, not all gifts will be claimed, either due to forgetfulness or a conscious decision not to claim. Broadly speaking, those whose income is derived from their superannuation (personal retirement savings) are not required to pay tax or submit a return, so their gifts are not included. Additionally, the data does not include giving from trusts or companies or giving by persons overseas who are not Australian taxpayers. The ATO dataset also does not examine other forms of giving such as time (volunteering) or goods under $5,000 in value.
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." Only when the donation is actually made does it acquire legal status as a transfer or property.
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.
The person or institution giving a gift is called the donor, and the person or institution getting the gift is called the donee.
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.
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.