The moment we utter the word “Philanthropy”, what is the first thing that comes to our mind – the United States of America.

The total donation numbers in the US are mind numbing. They have donated more than $400 Billion. The distribution of this is 14% Foundation Grants, 5% Corporates & 81% Individuals. 1.4% Americans, about 4.5 million, donate 86% of the total amounting to $350 billion.

There are so many US entrepreneurs donating their nearly entire wealth to charity or philanthropy. The philanthropy done by Americans is mind boggling be it Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg, Sam Walton to name a few. Recently I came across an article which talked about Twitter billionaire Jack Dorsey giving away his money. What could be the drive which makes them donate such huge sums for charity?

In open and capitalist societies, others cannot judge how much is a lot for anyone. So each person has to decide by himself how much is enough for his/her family and how much to give. One more observation is spendthrift rich do not donate much, of course, there may be few exceptions.

All over the world, during times of peace, we see charity towards arts (and music, etc) and general welfare. During wars, you see charity towards each other and the nation. I think this culture has more or less remained all over the world no matter which country.

The people in western world are quite ready to give for a cause – a few months back, I read a story of a 99 years old war veteran, Capt. Tom Moore, who set himself a goal to raise £1000 for the NHS. He began by setting up a fundraising page and declared that he would walk 82 foot length of his garden back and forth 100 times, using his walker for support. How much did he raise against the target of £1000? Hold your breath, $33 million !!! Phew..

The church was and is extremely powerful in western world and especially in Europe. In fact, I think the Vatican can buy a few countries and will still have some money left over. The church also typically helped its own kind and also helped spread its message through proselytising. However I am not going to dwell much on the Church or its activities as well as on Europe or other rich countries like Japan. My primary focus is on the US.

The US is a bit different. It pretty much started from scratch both as a nation and also most of its people had no titles in their homeland nor here. People helped their own kind when they made even little there and when they made it big, they helped the population at large. Their charity spanned from art, music, and various causes.

The US has 4 different kinds of charitable giving. There is a whole bunch of people who do not have money but give time (protest for causes, build houses for the poor, church bakery sale, etc), people who make a comfortable living but have no time – they donate money to various charities, people who have a LOT of money and donate millions to charities typically through trusts and the government which uses some of the tax money for charity. However one must also bear in mind that high incidence of Inheritance Tax is also a major driving force for the Americans to donate more.

If you see American culture and way of life, giving money is part of them. Take cases of waiters, barbers, taxi drivers or any such services, Americans tend to tip them around 15% of the total amount to be paid. I remember once I had been to a waterfront restaurant in the outskirts of New York City with a friend of mine who resided there. After we were done, my friend paid the bill & gave 10% tip. As we were moving out, the waitress ran after us as she wanted to know whether she did something wrong which warranted 5% less tip. Today it has become like a standard norm.

To summarise, we can say that there is a culture of giving money for Charity or for any services in the United States.

Now a natural question arises in our mind as to what kind of mentality we have in India? Are Indians, by nature, are givers or are they selfish or if not these, what is our culture? Now covering such a wide spectrum in one single article would be too unwieldy and hence I will take that up in my next article.

Yeshwant Marathe

yeshwant.marathe@gmail.com

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