Philanthropy Focus: U.S. Tops World Giving Index 2011 as Most Charitable Country

Americans ranked highest in monetary donations, volunteering and helping strangers

Two out of three Americans said they donated money to charity this year, more than two out of five volunteered their time and roughly three out of four helped a stranger, according to the “World Giving Index 2011” report, released Tuesday by CAFAmerica.

As a result, the U.S. ranks highest in terms of charity among 153 countries surveyed, up from fifth place in 2010, CAFAmerica said in a statement. The findings were based on more than 150,000 Gallup polling interviews with members of the public around the world.

The 2011 report looked at three aspects of giving behavior of individuals in the preceding month, asking whether they had donated money to a charity, volunteered time to an organization or helped a stranger.

“In spite of economic hardships and uncertainty in the future, the American spirit is caring and strong, as these survey findings clearly show,” CAFAmerica interim CEO and director of finance David Venne said in the statement. “The generosity of the American spirit expands beyond the U.S. with 5% percent of American charitable monies flowing overseas.”

Venne said the 2011 survey showed that China, Russia and India were among countries near the bottom of the list. “Our experience shows that these countries benefit enormously from US philanthropy.”

Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. rounded out the top five. Four new countries—Thailand, Morocco, Nigeria and Liberia—entered the top 20 this year. Of these, Liberia enjoyed the biggest rise, from 39th to 14th place.

The study drew these other conclusions:

  • Despite global economic turmoil, the world is giving more. The global average of the three giving behaviors rose to 32.4% from 31.6% in 2010.
  • The increase in giving is due to more helping strangers and more volunteering of time; but giving of money has fallen—presumably a reflection of the global economic crisis.
  • Evidence points to key shifts in giving behavior at different life stages, with monetary donations and volunteering growing fastest among the oldest age groups and helping strangers becoming more common among the middle aged.
  • At the country level, much can change in just one year. Eight countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, saw their scores increase by double figures.
  • Prosperity and giving do not always go hand in hand. Only five countries in the World Bank’s Top 20 by GDP per capita are in the CAF study’s top 20.
  • The global footprint of giving remains very diverse. Giving means very different things across the different continents.
  • Asia has seen the biggest growth in giving. Four of the five Asia regions in the report achieved increases in their scores, and southern Asia’s rose by 11 percentage points.
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