Donating: Is It the American Way?

In the United States, there are 1,429,801 tax-exempt organizations made up of 966,599 public charities; 96,584 private foundations; and 366,618 other types of nonprofits, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. These [tax-exempt] organizations paid for 9.2% of all wages in [our nation last year] and accounted for 5.5% of GDP. Charitable contributions are over $320 billion, with religious organizations receiving 32% […] and educational institutions getting 13%.

Over the last five years, the World Giving Index rates the United States as the most giving country, followed by Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom. What is driving the No. 1 rating is the fact that helping a stranger is more commonplace in [our country], with 77% of Americans saying they helped someone they did not know. The United States ranks third globally in volunteering and 13th in donating money.

[Americans] have a long history of giving back. [T]he Pilgrims […] relied on neighbors to survive the harsh winters. The settlers raised each others’ barns, hosted quilting bees for the community and built common areas in their towns. Benjamin Franklin […] is known as the Founding Father of American Volunteerism; [in] the late 1700s, [h]e gathered volunteers to sweep the streets of Philadelphia, organized the nation’s first volunteer fire department [and] established a voluntary militia. […] His philosophy was “individuals working together, un-coerced, for the common good.” In the 1830s, two groups who felt their lack of power—women, who had no right to vote, and the clergy, whose political authority was weakened by the constitutional separation of church and state—formed benevolent societies to focus on issues [like] slavery, cruelty, drinking [and] illiteracy.

[B]illionaires [also] have given to improve [American] society. Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune in the steel industry, helped fund 3,000 public libraries, […] 7,000 church organs and […] Carnegie Hall in New York City. […] John Rockefeller, Jr., who made his fortune in oil, donated land along the East River in Manhattan for the United Nations headquarters in his belief that the world together can get better. […] Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, probably the two best-known billionaires, created the “Giving Pledge,” which now has 127 billionaires committed to pledging at least half of their wealth to help nonprofits.

These are examples of the very visible givers. There are hundreds of others who have given to help hospitals and schools and the underprivileged that are not in the news.

Overall, Americans give, on average, 3% of their income to charity, a figure that has not budged significantly for decades. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that there are significant differences in how much the average American gives; [i]n Utah and Mississippi, households [donate an average of] 7% of their incomes to charity, while in Massachusetts and three other New England states, giving is under 3%. Middle-class Americans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income; households earning $50,000 [to] $75,000 [annually] give an average of 7.6% of their income to charity compared to 4.2% of people making over $100,000. […]

What are the reasons people help other people? According to, giving to charity improves your sense of well-being, [because you know] that you sacrificed time, finances or property to help others. Supporting a cause can help keep you informed about issues of social injustice. Giving to charity out of spiritual conviction can strengthen your spiritual life. Volunteering with a charity may result in physical and social benefits—[a]nd donations are tax-deductible.

Having donations as a tax-deductible item has been in the fabric of our taxes since the Revenue Act of 1917, which established […] an individual income-tax deduction for contributions made to tax-exempt charitable organizations. According to CNN, the charitable deduction is the ninth-largest tax expenditure in the federal budget. In 2014, the amount of revenue the government will forgo from those claiming charitable deductions is estimated to reach $52 billion. Giving, on one hand, helps those in need, while on the other hand, [it] pushes our government into greater debt.

Community service is not political, and it is not mandated by the state. It is something that comes from deep within our core values. A true definition of this can be seen with the Society of Secret Santas, who[se members] give away $100 bills of their own money to the needy to help reinforce the self-worth and image of those they help. […] They give in anonymity; [lead] by example; [share] their wealth in a humble, selfless way; [and] show compassion through random acts of kindness, tapping into the human spirit by giving the recipient hope and belief.

Anonymous givers set the stage to teach our kids about the selflessness of being kind. Whether it is cleaning out your closet to help a charitable organization or spending time to help the elderly or volunteering to help a neighbor do yard work or shovel snow, the examples we adults set today by our actions will influence how the next generation views their obligations to others. […]

From Ben Franklin to Andrew Carnegie to Warren Buffet, well-known leaders set the example for us, but you don’t have to be a billionaire leaving a legacy to make a difference. [V]olunteering still forms the core of the American character—[i]t is who we are and how we pass on freedom and caring to the next generation. Maybe that is one reason that seniors volunteer at a higher rate than our children. The experience of life that seniors [possess] is precious, and if we can teach the younger generations to care more about others, we can continue to be the most charitable nation, just like our forefathers [envisioned].

Original article here:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.