Americans are a generous people. According to the Atlas of Giving they donated $370 billion to charities of various types in 2012. This is up 6.7% from the prior year and well above what it was a decade ago.
One reason for this growth was an increase in "mega gifts" and the impact of increased donations by people concerned about tax code changes eliminating charitable deductions. Key quote from the CEO of Atlas of Giving in a Barron's article:
"The philanthropic sector’s 2012 growth of 6.7% was remarkably strong, he says, in no small part due to Warren Buffett’s and the Bill and Melinda Gates’s charitable push, The Giving Pledge. It resulted in a bumper crop of “mega-gifts” last year. The Giving Pledge is, of course, the public commitment by America’s wealthiest to give more than half of their entire wealth to charitable causes."
Because so many raised their contributions in 2012, charitable giving is expected to see a more modest 1.3% increase in 2013.
This giving supports the very large non-profit sector which employs almost 11 million Americans.