Pile of U.S. $100 bills (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Americans gave a whopping $373.3 billion to charities and nonprofits in 2015, with the largest share going to religious organizations, according to the Giving USA report, released June 14.

Donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reached a record-high rate of more than $1 billion a day. The total was up 4 percent from $359 billion in 2014.

“These findings embody more than numbers — they also are a symbol of the American spirit,” said Giving USA Foundation chair W. Keith Curtis, also the president of nonprofit consulting firm Curtis Group of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them,” he said. The total amount sets a record for the second year in a row.

Americans gave $119.3 billion to religious organizations in 2015, an increase of 2.6 percent when adjusted for inflation.

Out of the nine charitable sectors, the biggest increase in 2015, percentage-wise, was for organizations involved in international affairs. Giving to this sector rose 17.4 percent, when adjusted for inflation, to $15.75 billion.

Giving to education rose nearly 9 percent to $57.48 billion; this includes many multimillion-dollar gifts to specific colleges and universities.

The report attributed the two-year surge to a continued economic recovery, including a more stable financial situation for many households.

The annual Giving USA report is published by the Giving USA Foundation. It is researched and written by staff at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.