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New Age of Philanthropy?

This week's Economist highlights trends in world philanthropy and asks whether a new golden age of giving may be about to occur. Contributing influences are a long track record of giving in the wealthy USA dating back to Carnegie and Rockefeller who championed phrases like “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced”. There is also the new wealthy from the a long period of economic growth and low interest rates, increased generational longevity and dot.com billionaires who have more wealth that they know what to do with and more than they wish to leave to the kids.

Since I975, the number of US grant making foundations has grown from 20,000 to 65,000 and total giving has grown from $100 billion pa to $240 billion pa in 2003. But how much of this giving is recycled wealth within high socio-economic groups and religious strata?

Attempts have been made to examine these trends in more detail by Lester Salamon of the John Hopkins University. In the book “Dimensions of the Non-profit Sector” Salamon’s team has studied 36 countries. He is also developing guidelines for the United Nations so that national accounts can be compared on the basis of giving and volunteering. Early figures for 10 countries for total value of giving and volunteering range from 4.5% of GDP in Netherlands to 0.6% of GDP in India. Israel has the highest giving at 1.2% of GDP while Netherlands and Sweden have the highest volunteering at 4% of GDP.

Posted Saturday, 14 August 2004

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