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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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A Global Look at Charitable Giving

A simple fact. The United States leads the world in charitable contributions and with regard to the number of people who volunteer for good causes, we are second. While the statistics are not fully current, it is safe to say that some $260 billion was donated in 2008 to charities across the nation. The leading recipients were religious organizations, receiving around $90 billion.

Taking a look at charitable giving, by country, as a percent of GDP, the results are interesting. The United States gives almost 1.8 percent of our GDP each year. Canada and England are second with around 0.7 percent of GDP. France is close to the bottom with charitable contributions around 0.15 percent of its GDP.

Also, the facts relating to time volunteered to charities across the world are also quite interesting. Only Canadians give more of their personal time to help charities. In the United States only 20 percent of us volunteer to help not-for-profit organizations. Some 25 percent of Canadians volunteer their time to help. And they donate over five hours per month with U.S. residents only giving some 2.2 hours each month.

As I started to write this piece, I could not help but reflect back to a business challenge faced by my employer in France. I just assumed that charitable organizations would be all over the countryside. Wrong. There were very few, particularly after leaving Paris. France, at that time, was just not into charities.

As you re-examine the facts, we have a lot of room to expand charitable giving in the United States. Care coming from individuals is much better than processing that money from taxes through the government to the charity next door.

Another interesting fact is that charitable giving by corporations only accounts for 5 percent of the annual total in the United States – or $13 billion of the total of $260 billion. We are a generous people compared to the rest of the world, but we could do much more.

Just think about the challenges people, our neighbors, feel in these uncertain economic times. It would not hurt if we were all to volunteer some time or contribute money. Sometimes, the challenge is where to give? There are so many worthy organizations deserving of our support.

The best way to start is to think about what concerns you the most. Then, do some Internet research about where to give. Another approach is to give more to your local church or temple. I have also found helpful seeking information from my friends who I know are active volunteers. They can always come up with positive suggestions.

Finally, I would be remiss if I was not critical of President Obama’s proposal to lower the deductibility of charitable contributions by the wealthy. That is a shame and should be rejected by the Congress.

Robert McMillan Website: