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May 9, 2011

An American Strength

One thing Americans are good at–better than any other group I’ve lived with, I think–is raising money for charity in many, many ways.   And since right now I need something to feel good about, I wanted to write about this. And, I confess, I have an ulterior motive.

Over the years I’ve sold raffle tickets, baked countless cookies and brownies for bake sales (and unfortunately bought countless cookies and brownies from bake sales), done walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, and one memorable year in a college, a diet-a-thon.  They probably wouldn’t be allowed anymore, as they sound like something that’s not encouraging healthy diet. But people sponsored us a set amount per pound. It went from the Friday before Spring break and ran for two weeks. The school nurse did the official weigh-in on her office scale.

My history professor, Dr. Vanderhoof, sponsored me a whopping dollar a pound (every one else was doing 10, maybe 25 cents). To both of our amazement, I lost 14 pounds, a feat I have never repeated in such a short time span, and have never forgotten. Much celery was involved.  Dr. Vanderhoof cheerfully forked over the money that went to the Council for Exceptional Children and became one of my favorite professors (for more than just  the sponsorship, really).

I’m not saying Americans are the most charitable group going, but a large percentage of Americans hand over money to friends for everything from cancer research to school book drives to animal shelter drives. These are the yearly events. Americans are usually pretty good at chipping in to the Red Cross for disaster relief for things like Katrina, Haiti and the new disasters in America’s south right now, as well. 

Checking to see if my hunch about Americans was correct, I found some amazing statistics.  According to the National Parks Service,

According to Giving USA, a report compiled annually by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, figures on American philanthropy showed that:

  • Americans gave more than $307.75 billion to their favorite causes despite the economic conditions in 2009. Total giving, when adjusted for inflation, was down 3.6 percent, the steepest decline since the Giving USA annual reports started in 1956. It’s important to keep in mind that despite the downturn, giving still totaled $307 billion.
  • The greatest portion of charitable giving, $227.41 billion, was given by individuals or household donors. In 2009, gifts from individuals represented 75 percent of all contributed dollars, similar to 2008 figures.

I think those are pretty cool numbers. 

And in the essay “A Nation of Givers” from the journal The American: the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute, I found this incredible little bit of information:

when we measure monetary giving as a percentage of income in order to ascertain the level of one’s “sacrifice,” we find a surprising result: it is low-income working families that are the most generous group in America, giving away about 4.5 percent of their income on average. This compares to about 2.5 percent among the middle class, and 3 percent among high-income families.

Nice to know I’m helping the numbers of my demographic!

And I know the charity habit starts young. I did my first walk-a-thon, for the March of Dimes, when I was 10. It was 20 miles, people sponsored per mile, and that first year, I only walked 10 miles and was broken-hearted.

It seems that lately there’s a walk-a-thon once or twice a month, and blessedly, they are much shorter.  This coming Sunday is the AIDS WALK NY, and I’m walking in honor of all the friends I’ve lost over the years.  Since I’m not above shilling for charity, if you’d like to sponsor me, you can find the link to my page here.  I’m walking with the Harry Potter Alliance Team because a) you know I’m a Harry Potter geek, and b) “the weapon we have is love”.

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