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What's Up Magazine

What Do You Think? American Spirit of Generosity

Dec 18, 2017 02:00PM
By Ellen Moyer

Americans are a generous and caring people. In fact, we are the most generous of 140 countries on our globe. On the index of giving, we are joined by other caring nations as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Ireland, and, surprisingly, Myanmar, the poorest of southeast Asian countries.

The world’s leading study of generosity, World Giving, ranks the nations based on three criteria:

  • Willingness to help strangers
  • Donating money to charitable causes
  • Volunteering time

Ninety-one percent of the population in Myanmar, even though poor, donate money in line with the Buddhist tradition. This trumps (no pun intended) the 67 percent of U.S. households that contribute to nonprofits.

According to Giving USA, Americans donated $358 Billion dollars to charity in 2014. Individuals contributed 72 percent of that total; foundations and bequests contributed 23 percent; and corporations, 5 percent.

Interestingly, lower income donors give proportionately more of their income to charity, 4.2 percent, than upper income donors (over $75,000 income) at about 2.7 percent. Perhaps that, in part, accounts for the high participation of the low income in Myanmar, where being helpful to others is a core value.

Communist countries of Eastern Europe including Russia are low on the giving index. China is last. About 6 percent of the Chinese contribute money to charity; only 4 percent volunteer their time; and a scant 24 percent would help a stranger in need.

Fair to say there is a vast difference in generosity between the free world democracies and those under authoritarian, centralized rule.

You can check yourself and your community on the three criteria that define generosity of spirit.

Between 2002 and 2009, the City of Annapolis promoted Pennies for Charity on Valentine’s Day. Elementary school students were asked to donate pennies to charity in the spring water bottles delivered to each school. Each year, pennies from our students reached more than $1,000 to aid in crisis recovery toward repairing hurricane damages. Long ago, pennies from school children contributed to the installation of a liberty bell on the St. John’s College campus. Our charitable impulse is deep.

In 2012, the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation created the International Day of Giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the high-commercial days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A one-day event, promoted through Internet giving, raised $168 million in 2016 at a time when 91 percent of the population recognized Black Friday and only 18 percent knew about Giving Tuesday. Through this program, individuals can follow their passion and contribute to a participating charity of their choice. There are 15,000 charities in Maryland, which also happens to be among the most generous of American states.

Despite the political sniping that consumes our attention in anger and anxiety and depression, we are proudly a caring and sharing society. We have been quick to lend a helping hand, volunteer our time, and contribute money to the causes that attract our passion and concern.

As a nation, however, we are moving to more centralized and authoritarian government action and falling prey to actions that divide and erode our democracy. Unknown is the effect this will have over time on being the most generous and charitable of all nations. December is the No. 1 month in the Giving Season; a time to step up, follow your passion, choose a nonprofit, and share in the American spirit of generosity.

Will you?

What do you think and why?

Please email your thoughts to our Publisher and Editor at: and