Thursday, June 28, 2007

Open Hands and Large Hearts

According to this report we’ve done it again. America leads the world in charitable giving. And it’s not the wealthy corporations, or the Bill Gates-type donors who are the backbone of charity:

Donors contributed an estimated $295.02 billion in 2006, a 1 percent increase when adjusted for inflation, up from $283.05 billion in 2005. Excluding donations for disaster relief, the total rose 3.2 percent, inflation-adjusted, according to an annual report released Monday by the Giving USA Foundation at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy.

Giving historically tracks the health of the overall economy, with the rise amounting to about one-third the rise in the stock market, according to Giving USA. Last year was right on target, with a 3.2 percent rise as stocks rose more than 10 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis.

“What people find especially interesting about this, and it’s true year after year, that such a high percentage comes from individual donors,” Giving USA Chairman Richard Jolly said. [“Jolly” is a jolly good name for a charities oversight chairman —D]

Individuals gave a combined 75.6 percent of the total. With bequests, that rises to 83.4 percent.

The biggest chunk of the donations, $96.82 billion or 32.8 percent, went to religious organizations. The second largest slice, $40.98 billion or 13.9 percent, went to education, including gifts to colleges, universities and libraries.

About 65 percent of households with incomes less than $100,000 give to charity, the report showed.

Why is this not surprising? The donations that the Republican Party receives are largely from individual donors — that’s why staying on message for their base is more important than it is for the Dems, who are underwritten by Soros and Hollywood and the unions.

And conservatives give more to charity than do liberals…or perhaps give more meaningfully. Remember when Hillary took a tax deduction for donating Bill’s old underwear to charity?

This report noticed the same thing de Tocqueville did — Americans operate from a sense of abundance. They give because they are hopeful, they are optimists, and they know there is more where that came from. Besides, they sincerely believe in the adage about bread cast upon the waters:

“It tells you something about American culture that is unlike any other country,” said Claire Gaudiani, a professor at NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and author of “The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism.” Gaudiani said the willingness of Americans to give cuts across income levels, and their investments go to developing ideas, inventions and people to the benefit of the overall economy.

Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7 percent. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73 percent, while France, with a 0.14 percent rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany.

Having been the recipients of others’ generosity during the Baron’s unemployment, I can say that while donations came from everywhere — even Berkeley — the majority of our givers were Texans and Aussies. Many gave more than once.

This news report doesn’t even mention the Australians, so I went looking for some larger reference. Here’s one [.pdf] from the World Bank for 2005:

World Bank Charity

Notice that the Anglosphere dominates when it comes to sharing.
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Does anyone have an idea why that might be? I mean, a theory with some philosophical underpinnings? If so, I’d like to hear them, especially the ones that don’t bleat about our superiority. As I said, such largesse must come from a fundamental optimism.

But from whence does that optimism flow? Is it perhaps a sense — rightly or wrongly — that we have the freedom to make individual choices about how we will make our way in the world?

Does that optimism flow from a sense of gratitude for all we have?

And while we’re at it, what is your favorite charity…and why?

I’ll go first: Grameen most touches my capitalist heart, but I am also enamored of courageous individuals like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio. When the Baron was still working as an employee, I gave money to Michael Yon so he could buy some night vision glasses and not get killed.

On the other hand, when the time came to support Bill Roggio’s embed in Iraq, we didn’t have any money to spare, so I sent him an explanation and an IOU. Do you know what he did? He sent us a contribution!

How’s that for an open heart?


Wally Ballou said...

Thanks for the positive message, D., it's sorely needed in the world. Occasionally you will see some "cooked" statistics showing that the US actually lags behind in charitable giving - the only way you can get that result is to ignore private giving, which many statistics do - only compelled, not voluntary, giving counts.

Every American owes it to himself to thoroughly investigate charities before giving, though. With the Internet, that is easier to do.

Don't let 'em take advantage of your good intentions. Jerry Seper's articles on the Minuteman Foundation audit found that they spent 63 percent of revenues to pay for program management and operating expenses and another 32 percent for fundraising. Glad I never sent them any cash.

this book on the subject of conservative vs, liberal givers looks interesting.

Vol-in-Law said...

I knew Americans were generous but I'm amazed Britain comes in so high, the British media has never reported this disparity between the Anglosphere and everywhere else.

Dymphna said...

Vol-in-law --

Why does that not surprise me. The Brits never want to believe anything good about themselves.

Of course, they're not enamored of much of the rest of us either. You have to give it to the French for professional self-promotion. And look how far down *they* are...

Vol-in-Law said...

Too true, Dymphna. I have to admire the French ability for impenetrable self-belief; it enables them to make huge mistakes, pick themselves up, shrug *bouf* and try something different, while the Anglo-Germanic nations wallow in self-loathing.

This is why I am sceptical of predictions that France will be among the first European nations to de-Europeanise, despite its very large Muslim population. Sweden, with its active death-wish, seems a much more likely prospect, even if numbers are smaller. Britain lies somewhere between the two.