Washingtonians have been especially generous this year, with many local charities reporting increases in donations.

Some organizations, like the United Way of the National Capital Area, expect to finish out the year with a large boost in fundraising.

Between the start of the fiscal year on July 1 and Dec. 14, donations to the local United Way increased 11 percent over the same period last year, "which is a really strong indication of how we end our year," said Matthew Stankevich, senior director of donor services and planned giving. The increase translates to nearly $700,000, mostly from

individual donors.

Source: charitynavigator.org

Tis the season
Charities that earn the highest percentage of donations in December:
Rank Charity Percent of donations received in December*
1 The Nature Conservancy 99.9
2 Center for Individual Rights 99.8
3 Susan G. Komen for the Cure 99
4 Food Bank of the Rockies 97
5 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 90.6
6 Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 89.4
7 World Wildlife Fund 85.8
8 American Civil Liberties Union Foundation 84.7
9 The Carter Center 76.4
10 Natural Resources Defense Council 72.7
*Based on 2011 data

Likewise, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington is on pace for a 27 percent increase in online donations, said spokesman Tony Burke, "and for [fiscal] 2013, we have every expectation of exceeding ... the number of contributions we received last year."

Bread for the City -- a nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, and medical, legal and social services to the District's poor -- has raised $30,000 more this year than last year, an increase of roughly 2 percent, said Chief Development Officer Kristin Valentine. Individual gifts are up significantly, with the organization raising $300,000 more than expected from individuals.

The uptick is not surprising, said Tim Seiler, director of the Fund Raising School at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy. Charitable gifts were up about 1 percent in 2011, and based on the first 11 months of 2012, Seiler said he expects a similar increase this year nationwide.

The S&P 500 index -- up almost 14 percent this year -- and personal income growth are the two strongest indicators of how charitable people will be in a given year, he said.

Deciding whether to give comes largely down to psychology, said University of Maryland finance professor David Kass. For example, a strong real estate market like Washington's

can boost giving, by making people feel wealthier.

But not all local charities have seen such robust years.

Though individual gifts are up roughly 20 percent -- about $500,000 -- at Miriam's Kitchen, an organization that serves the chronically homeless in Washington, a drop in grants from foundations has caused a decline in fundraising overall, said Jennifer Roccanti, assistant director of development. Donations from individuals account for roughly 40 percent of the organization's funding.

The presidential election also hurt giving, since campaign contributions ate away at would-be donors' disposable incomes, said Bill Winston, director of corporate development and communications at Manna Inc., an organization that works to help low- and moderate-income families find affordable homes.

For many, if not all charitable organizations, the last few days of the year are crucial as donors give in honor of Christmas or try to take advantage of the tax deduction by giving before Dec. 31.

The House of Ruth, which provides housing and social services to women, children and families, has raised $1.5 million toward its fiscal year goal of $3.75 million, which must be met by the end of June, said Director of Development Carolyn Stevens. But most of that needs to happen in the next week since giving drops off significantly in January.

Miriam's Kitchen has to raise $600,000 before Dec. 31 to make budget, Roccanti said. That's about $200,000 more than the organization raised in the same period last year.

But December is always critical.

"Last year, we raised almost $700,000 in December, and that was almost half of what we raised in all of 2011," Roccanti said. "Most of our revenue comes in the last two months of the year."