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U.S. Tops Index of Most Charitable Nations

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The U.S. reclaimed the top spot in the World Giving Index last year as proportionally more Americans contributed in some way than in any other country.

The U.S. last held first place in the rankings in 2010, before ceding the spot to Australia in 2011.

The key reason for its ascendancy was that a higher proportion of Americans helped a stranger than citizens of any other country in 2012.

The 2013 report, published by Charities Aid Foundation, examined three aspects of giving behavior, asking respondents whether they had done the following in the past month:

  • Donated money to a charity
  • Volunteered time to an organization
  • Helped a stranger, or someone they didn’t know who needed help

Data in the new report came from Gallup’s World View World Poll, an ongoing research project carried out in 135 countries in 2012.

According to the index, the average percentage of people donating money, volunteering time and helping a stranger globally all grew in 2012 in relation to 2011, despite a fall in the global economy’s rate of growth from 4% to 3.2%.

The overall rise in charitable activity last year was driven by the increase in people helping a stranger. In particular, more men played Good Samaritan globally in 2012 than in 2011.

The number of people who helped others grew by some 200 million in 2012, more than double the growth in the number of those who donated money and volunteered.

Since 2011, the biggest increase in volunteerism has occurred among 15– to 24-year-olds. In 2012, this age group was second most likely to volunteer, a big turnaround from being the least likely in 2008.

Although each type of giving increased between 2011 and 2012, the global level of engagement remained below the highest on record. Monetary donations, in particular, lagged behind the 2008 level.

The index rankings showed a systemic shift taking place in global giving: rising engagement in developing nations across all three giving activities as well as growing populations.

India and China appear at, or near, the top of the 2012 rankings in terms of the actual number of people giving in each category. Populous developing economies such as Indonesia and Thailand feature strongly in the top 10 countries for the proportion of people giving money, while Sri Lanka and the Philippines are in the top 10 for volunteering.

Since 2008, women have become more likely than men to donate money to charity at a global level, according to the index. Meanwhile, the gender gap in terms of propensity to volunteer was the same last year as it was in 2008. However, proportionally, more men were helping strangers than ever before.

The index recommended the following to governments around the world:

  • Ensure not-for-profit organizations are regulated in a fair, consistent and open way
  • Make it easy for people to give, and offer incentives for giving where possible
  • Promote civil society as an independent voice in public life, and respect the right of not-for-profit groups to campaign
  • Ensure not-for-profits are transparent and inform the public about their work
  • Encourage charitable giving as nations develop their economies, taking advantage of the world’s growing middle classes.