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A donation is a gift given by physical or legal persons, typically for charitable purposes and/or to benefit a cause. A donation may take various forms, including cash offering, services, new or used goods including clothing, toys, food, and vehicles. It also may consist of emergency, relief or humanitarian aid items, development aid support, and can also relate to medical care needs as i.e. blood or organs for transplant. Charitable gifts of goods or services are also called gifts in kind.
Charity Navigator writes that, according to Giving USA, Americans gave $298.42 billion in 2011 (about 2% of GDP). A majority of donations were from individuals (73%), then from bequests (about 12%), foundations (1.8%) and less than 1% from corporations. The largest sector to receive donations was religious organizations (32%), then education (4%). 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, the percentage of total fundraising that comes from online giving was about 6% in 2011. More than 30% of online donations occurred near the end of the year (October, November, or December - in which 20% of donations occurred). The report mentions that extensive Haiti relief skewed data upward for 2010 online giving; based on 2011 data, the report advises "As online giving becomes more ubiquitous and overall growth of the channel slows, it will be critically important for all organizations to have an effective retention strategy in place."
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 civil law jurisdictions, on the contrary, donations are valid contracts, though they may require some extra formalities, such as being done in writing.
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 to charities 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.
In countries where there are limits imposed on the freedom of disposition of the testator, there are usually similar limits on donations.
The person or institution giving a gift is called the donor, and the person or institution getting the gift is called the donee.
In India, donations for charitable purposes are eligible for tax exemptions.
Donating in the name of others
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 honour 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 cannot go to the ceremonies.