The Charity Sovereign

We are a nation of givers in the United States. This is nothing new and it hasn’t stopped even as we have fallen into tough economic times.

While some scream about the evils we do, we continue to give, to help, to do our best to lift up those brought low by natural disasters and truly evil rulers.

For too many years we put ourselves in the role of the world’s policeman. Unfortunately some people while in that role lived by the idea that “the end determines the means.” Out of that mindset arose many evils, some that continue today. So, yes, we are human. We are flawed and screw up regularly. Surprise, surprise.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the good that we try so very hard to do. If statistics and number bore you, I’m sorry. But how else can I make my case?

First, as a nation:

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the countries giving the highest amounts of money (in absolute terms) are as follows:
Official Development Assistance by country in absolute terms (April 2010).  To qualify as official development assistance (ODA), a contribution must contain three elements: 1.) be undertaken by the official sector (that is, a government or government agency); 2.) with promotion of economic development and welfare as the main objective; and 3.) at concessional financial terms (that is, with favorable loan terms.) Thus, by definition, ODA does not include private donations.
Original document here.

1.        United States – $28.67 billion
2.        France – $12.43 billion
3.        Germany – $11.98 billion
4.        United Kingdom – $11.50 billion
5.        Japan – $9.48 billion
6.        Spain – $6.57 billion
7.        Netherlands – $6.43 billion
8.        Sweden – $4.55 billion
9.        Norway – $4.09 billion
10.       Canada – $4.01 billion

More than two times the next largest spender.

But it is in the area of private giving that Americans are really amazing!

According to the most up to date data available from the National Philanthropic Trust:
89% of all households in the USA give to charity.
Charitable giving accounted for 2.2% of gross domestic product.
86 percent of wealthy donors said they are most motivated to give by the notion of “meeting critical needs” and 83 percent said “giving back to society” is motivational.
80 percent of wealthy donors surveyed said they are most likely to make contributions to educational organizations, with religious (72%) and health organizations (70%) following in popularity.
Corporate foundations gave $4.2 billion in 2006 and 57% expect to give more in 2007.
Corporate giving, including grants from corporate foundations, increased substantially by 18.5 percent, to $13.8 billion.
Giving by the nation’s 2,600 grant making corporate foundations grew an estimated 6 percent in 2006 to a record 4.2 billion.
57 percent of corporate foundations expect to increase their giving in 2007.
Electronic gifts to the 187 organizations that provided figures for 2005 and 2006 grew by 37 percent, from $880.7 million to $1.2 billion, and eighty-five of those groups saw online gifts grow by more than 50 percent.
In 2006, 83 percent of total contributions came from donations from individuals, including bequests.

Giving USA reports that private citizens have made donations of over $300 billion each year since at least 2007. “Even in a time of enormous economic upheaval, such as we saw in 2009, Americans continued to be generous to charitable causes,” said Giving USA Foundation Chair Edith H. Falk. “While overall giving declined, many donors—including individuals and foundations—made special efforts in 2009 to respond to greater humanitarian needs.”

Charities Aid Foundation International comparisons of charitable giving November 2006 (
The level of giving is one (though not the only) indicator of the strength of civil society. Judging comparative levels of national generosity is difficult, because of the different net effects of varying levels and distribution of wealth, tax and social insurance regimes and welfare benefits across countries. This paper has illustrated some of the differences which need to be taken into account by those attempting to benchmark their own country’s giving.
However, looking broadly at the European context, giving levels in the UK are the highest in Europe. But this does not make the UK the most generous. In fact, when the much higher personal taxation levels of the Netherlands, France and Germany are taken into account, it appears that overall the UK could afford to donate even more of its income to charity, particularly given that it clearly has the most generous system of charitable tax-breaks and is high on the scale of level of personal wealth. How much more giving is reasonable or could we expect? Turning to the US context provides the UK with one possible benchmark. The US is the only country in our sample where giving levels are higher than in the UK, representing more than twice the proportion of GDP than in the UK. This may be partly related to different patterns of taxation in the US, but is also related to higher levels of faith-based giving in the US, which explains about 60% of the difference in the proportion of GDP given to charity in the US and the UK. This shows that even after taking religion into account, there is still a gap, and indicates that the UK could set itself a higher target for giving.

For 39 of the past 40 years, American charitable contributions have increased, said Melissa Brown, associate director of research for the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

According to the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity (CGP), a Washington research organization Americans still lead the world in private charitable giving.

The Bank of America Philanthropy Report surveyed households with an income greater than $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding primary residences and found that about 98 percent of the households in the survey donated to philanthropies in 2009, unchanged from two years earlier. “They’re still giving with the same kind of loyalty and longevity and deliberateness,” Claire Costello, private philanthropy executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York, said in a telephone interview.

We give. We care. The USA is a great country that will keep on getting better as long as we don’t forget where we came from. Celebrate US! We’re worth it.

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