Victorian yuletide wrapped Christmas presents in brown paper and tied with string.

Key takeaways

  • Giving Season refers to the last two months of the year when charitable giving is done at high rates.
  • Although charitable giving has been around for centuries, tax benefits for it were put in place in 1917 in the U.S., which helped grow the practice of donating.
  • The many benefits of Giving Season and its strong foundation in the U.S. suggest that it will likely be around for years to come.

What is Giving Season?

“Giving Season” refers to the last two months of the year, when charitable giving is at its peak. Not only does Giving Season have a rich history, but a common practice has grown around it that has benefits for both gifters and giftees.1

The history of Giving Season

While charitable giving has been a valued practice for centuries, Giving Season as we know it now has come to fruition more recently.

The tax benefit of giving – an upside of giving that cannot be ignored – went into effect in 1917 in the U.S. and played an important role in bolstering giving among individuals and corporations.2 Since then, U.S. tax filers who itemize their deductions have generally been able to deduct qualifying charitable contributions from their U.S. federal taxable income if certain requirements are met, subject to applicable limitations.3 This incentive also catalyzed a snowball effect in which many foundations were formed specifically to receive charitable gifts that were now tax-deductible.4

In more recent decades, Americans have been driven to donate in record-breaking numbers. Since 1977, charitable giving has increased nearly every year with few exceptions. In 2019, U.S. donations amounted to $449.64 billion and individual gifts increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.5 Today, about 60% of Americans participate in charitable giving.6

Benefits of charitable giving

Charitable giving has financial and overall wellness benefits for everyone involved. These include:

  • The aforementioned tax benefit: Generally U.S. tax filers can deduct charitable contributions from their yearly taxable income if certain requirements are met, subject to applicable limitations.7 Deductions are limited to eligible charities and there’s also a limit to how much tax filers can deduct based on their adjusted gross income (AGI) , which is one reason why giving is so popular at the end of the year.8 But there’s no denying this is an attractive benefit, especially for high-earning individuals who can reduce their tax burden.9
  • Contributions to donor-advised funds generally allow individuals to take an upfront deduction for amounts contributed to the donor-advised fund and recommend over time where the donor-advised fund should make charitable contributions with those amounts.10 What’s more, contributions made to a donor-advised fund that are invested and appreciate can generally appreciate free from federal income tax.11
  • Charities receiving the funds are able to further the causes people care about. Donating isn’t just about taxes; a primary driver for many is what their money is going toward. This is notable especially during Giving Season, which of course coincides with holidays that often involve gifting, as 31% of yearly charitable giving happens in December.12

The Future of Giving Season

With so many years of documented growth, it’s reasonable to expect that charitable giving will continue to increase in the future. This can be impacted by factors such as recession – which we saw in 2008 and 2009 – but it’s evident that Americans prioritize giving, and in large quantities.

Newer generations see the value in giving, too. While they may not have as much capital to work with, 84% of millennials made financial donations to charity in 2021. This is a larger percentage than baby boomers, of whom 72% donate annually. It’s worth noting, though, that with their numbers and level of wealth, baby boomers make up 43% of all donations in the U.S.13 Those generations, and others, also give their time and expertise to causes that are important to them.

For their part, corporations are also driving the future of Giving Season. In 2022, companies collectively gave $21.08 billion to charity, a 3.4% increase from 2021.14

Bottom Line

Giving Season is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. Not only is it done to support good causes, but charitable giving also offers certain benefits like potential reductions in taxable income.

Although rules and regulations around charitable giving have changed over the years, Americans are still motivated to donate. With such a strong foundation even in younger generations, Giving Season is likely to grow for years to come.

Why is Giving Season at the end of the year?

Giving Season, also called “The Season of Giving” or “year-end giving,” serves a couple of purposes. From a tax perspective, high-income individuals and corporations may be looking to lessen their tax burden, and if so often increase donations in November and December so they can deduct them from that year’s income. On a broader level, though, Giving Season aligns with the holiday season for many Americans, during which charitable giving is encouraged.

What is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday occurs every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Not only is it in the heart of Giving Season, but it falls between two major consumer holidays in the U.S. –Thanksgiving and Christmas – so spending is already top-of-mind. On Giving Tuesday, Americans are encouraged to embrace the spirit of generosity and volunteer, donate to charity or simply help out someone in need.15

Who participates the most in charitable giving? 

The majority of charitable giving in the U.S. is provided by individuals. In 2022, individual Americans gave $319.04 billion, which represented 64% of the total giving that year.16 Among individuals, those who make $10 million-plus per year give the highest percentage of their income: 9.3%. The second-highest donators are, surprisingly, those who make less than $50,000. Americans who fall into this group donate 8.4% of their income on average.17



J.P. Morgan, “3 key motivations for giving this
season.” (October 2022).


Section 1201 of the Revenue Act of 1917.


Section 170 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.


Cambridge University Press, “Founders’ Fortunes and Philanthropy: A History of the U.S. Charitable-Contribution Deduction.” (August 2019).


Donor Box, “Nonprofit Statistics 2023.” (July 2023).




Section 170 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.


IRS, “Charitable Contribution Deductions.” (June 2023).


J.P. Morgan, “3 key motivations for giving this season.” (October 2022).


Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended




Donor Box, “End-of-Year Giving Statistics.” (August 2023).


Donor Box, “Nonprofit Statistics 2023.” (July 2023).


National Philanthropic Trust, “Charitable Giving Statistics.”


Giving Tuesday, “About Giving Tuesday.”


National Philanthropic Trust, “Charitable Giving Statistics.”


Donor Box, “Nonprofit Statistics 2023.” (July 2023).

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