Giving to International Development Up 15%, says GivingUSA

Released on June 20, GivingUSA 2011 is the latest report by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. It examines private philanthropy within the United States during 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. Total giving in 2010 was $290.89 billion, a rise of 3.8% (2.1% after inflation) from the previous year. Though private giving has yet to recover from a 13% drop during 2007—the first year of the recession—such modest increases are encouraging.

Source: GivingUSA 2011

Of all recipient organizations including health, education, and religion, giving to international development organizations saw the greatest increase from the previous year, rising 15.3% from $13.68 to $15.77 billion. One large portion of this increase stems from aid to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As CGP reported, nearly 1.4 billion was given to private and voluntary organizations for this purpose, and it constitutes a significant amount of giving to international development over all.

That being said, even if the aid to Haiti were removed from total giving to international development, the category still sees a rise of 5.04%, which is greater than overall growth in giving. Patrick M. Rooney, the Executive Director of the Center for Philanthropy, joked that the growth in giving to international development was so incredible that early readers of the report thought the numbers were wrong. (Alright, so it wasn’t a very funny joke—CGP chuckled.)

At a panel discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, Rooney explained that giving to international development has seen consistent growth over the long term. Since 1987, giving to this sector has been above average growth in giving, and since 2001, giving to international development has “grown at a much higher rate on average than other subsectors.” Rooney commented that the increased interest in international affairs may stem from the realization by many Americans after 9/11 that “we can no longer be Fortress America.”

Source: Index of Global Prosperity and Remittances 2011, CGP

CGP’s own statistics on private giving bear witness to America’s extraordinary engagement with the rest of the world. The Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances 2011, published by CGP this May, pegged total economic engagement at $226.2 billion for the year 2009, the latest year for which data was available. This figure includes not only official development assistance and private philanthropy but also remittances and private capital flows. Although these latter two categories are often not included in calculations of development aid, CGP has written extensively on the importance of remittances and investment to nurture local economies.

On the issue of private aid, CGP arrived at somewhat different numbers than GivingUSA. The 2011 Index calculated U.S. private philanthropy as 37.5 billion in 2009 while GivingUSA places this figure at 13.68 billion for the same year. This difference stems in large part from different definitions of private philanthropy. While GivingUSA based their calculations primary on the IRS records of 501(c)-3 (charitable non-profit organizations), CGP also included donations by corporations, foundations, universities, and religious organizations as well as time spent in volunteer activity.

Additionally, in the GivingUSA report, funding to organizations that report their main activity as a specific category such as education or health were attributed to that category—even if a portion of the funds went to international causes. For example, an organization that focused on education might operate international programs to promote childhood education, but under GivingUSA’s calculations, all the funding to that organization would be considered funding for “education”-related causes rather than both education and international development. As a result, GivingUSA may actually underestimate the level of giving for international causes. CGP, by contrast, calculates international giving as any funds that go to international causes, whether through an education program, health initiative, or any other organization.

Though the methodologies may be slightly different, both CGP and GivingUSA highlight the important role of private philanthropy in international assistance. GivingUSA 2011 is a recommended read for anyone interested in U.S. philanthropy, and you can be sure that CGP will examine it carefully in preparation for the 2012 Index.

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