Charitable giving in the United States swelled to an unprecedented $248.5 billion in 2004, a 2.3 percent increase over the 2003 figure after adjusting for inflation, according to the just-released edition of Giving USA, an annual barometer of charitable activity. The report found healthy growth in the four sources of contributions measured: living individual donors, bequests from deceased individuals, foundations, and corporations. Each category of giving rose by 4 to 9 percent in nominal terms, suggesting a recovery from the slow down in contributions in 2002 and 2003. More than half of both large- and medium-sized nonprofits—those receiving annual contributions in excess of $20 million and between $1 million and $20 million, respectively—also reported gains over their 2003 proceeds, and just under half of small nonprofits did so.
Individuals remain the single largest group of benefactors, with roughly three out of four contributing to at least one charity every year and combined donations in 2004 amounting to nearly $190 billion. This sustained munificence, nothing short of “the lifeblood of more than a million American nonprofits,” has replenished the coffers of everything from foundations for medical research to local orchestras, says Henry Goldstein, chairman of the Giving USA Foundation that publishes the data. “Being a ‘philanthropist’ does not merely mean making huge gifts,” he adds, “it means giving to any cause that you value.”
NEA vs. Eli Broad
The Education Intelligence Agency, a nonprofit that studies the National Education Association (NEA), reports that at the NEA’s recent national convention, delegates approved a measure which formally asserts their opposition to “attempts by billionaire Eli Broad and any other entity to remove elected school boards from cities in California and in any other state or territory.” Two facts not mentioned in the declaration, the EIA observes, are (1) recent comments by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a friend of the NEA, in support of a mayoral takeover of his city’s school board; and (2) that Eli Broad has been a substantial contributor to the Teacher Union Reform Network, a group to which five local California affiliates of the NEA belong, including the United Teachers Los Angeles union.
Aiding the World’s Poor
A new study released by the Hudson Institute of Washington, D.C., found that aggregate charitable donations from U.S. philanthropic groups and individuals to developing countries swelled to more than $62 billion in 2004, a sum over three-and-a-half times what was given away by the national government’s Official Development Assistance. Although some still criticize the United States for its parsimony in governmental aid as a percentage of Gross National Income (in which the U.S. ranks last among developed nations), Carol Adelman, a co-author of the study, rejects such criticisms. Official Development Assistance is “an outdated and inaccurate way of measuring a country’s generosity,” she says. “Americans prefer to give people-to-people assistance versus Europeans who give primarily government-to-government aid.”
Nor do official U.S. aid and private giving exhaust the ways Americans help the world’s poor. The study also noted that the standard international statistics do not fully count “ U.S. military contributions to peacekeeping and security, U.S. private industry investments that generate the bulk of research and development for better food and medicines, or preferential trade agreements that support imports from developing countries.” Worst of all, the conventional statistics do not include $51 billion of “ U.S. private capital flows to developing countries, consisting of foreign direct investment and net capital markets. This private investment creates jobs and economic growth, the surest way to reducing poverty.”
The William E. Simon Foundation has conferred this year’s prize for Philanthropic Leadership to Dr. Ben Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, a scholarship program for students of superlative academic distinction who also exhibit “humanitarian qualities.” Carson, who delivered the keynote address at The Philanthropy Roundtable’s 2002 Annual Meeting, was raised in poverty and once nicknamed “Dummy” by his classmates. He is best known for being the first surgeon to successfully separate twins joined at the head. Today, he uses his fame and personal wealth to support the Carson Scholars program. The $250,000 that comes with the Simon award will help grow the number of students he can assist. “Dr. Carson is an amazing American success story,” says Jim Piereson, a member of the Simon Foundation board, “and his philanthropy provides a wonderful example for others to follow.” The foundation also awarded its 2005 prize for Social Entrepreneurship to Wendy Kopp, founder and president of Teach For America. Teach For America recruits high-achieving college graduates who agree to spend two years teaching in America’s urban and rural schools. Today, there are 3,000 corps members and over 9,000 alumni, many of whom continue to work to expand education opportunities for the poor.