American Philanthropy

January 11, 1974

Report Outline
Financial Problems in Funding-Raising
Tradition of Public and Private Charity
Current Concepts of Government's Role
Special Focus

Financial Problems in Funding-Raising

Charity Agencies: Their Size, Scope and Drives

Despite the soaring cost of living, Americans gave $25 billion to charitable organizations in 1973, an average of almost $120 for every man, woman and child in the country. The year's contributions were one-tenth larger than in 1972 and more than twice as high as a decade earlier. Even after discounting for the effects of inflation—almost 50 per cent since 1963—there has been a considerable increase in giving. This added generosity may mean that society has become more sensitive to growing and costlier needs, or it may simply reflect the rise in affluence and the ability to give, in combination with tax incentives. Or again, it may indicate the skill of the nation's multitude of fund-raising organizations.

Most American philanthropy goes from donor to ultimate recipient through a tremendous variety and number of voluntary agencies. The latest edition (1970) of the Cumulative List of tax-exempt organizations issued by the Internal Revenue Service contains some 131,000 entries. America has long been noted for its reliance on voluntary, non-governmental efforts to promote the general welfare. “In no country in the world has the principle of association been more successfully used or applied to a greater multitude of objects than in America,” declared Alexis de Tocqueville over a century ago.

Today, however, the motives and values of those who provide and manage philanthropy are under suspicion. Evidence of discrepancies in the management of some charitable institutions has led to a lessening of confidence toward all of them. Much of the criticism is based on the populist suspicion that the chief beneficiaries of charitable contributions are the wealthy donors. “Charity is on the defensive in the United States,” declared Alan Pifer, president of the Carnegie Corporation.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Philanthropy and Charities
Mar. 08, 2019  Trends in Philanthropy
May 11, 2012  Celebrity Advocacy
Aug. 03, 2007  Corporate Social Responsibility
Dec. 08, 2006  Philanthropy in America
Jan. 22, 1999  Role of Foundations
Feb. 27, 1998  The New Corporate Philanthropy
Nov. 12, 1993  Charitable Giving
Dec. 23, 1988  Philanthropy: the Season for Giving
Dec. 12, 1986  New Faces of Charity
Dec. 03, 1982  The Charity Squeeze
Jan. 11, 1974  American Philanthropy
Mar. 05, 1969  Voluntary Action: People and Programs
Mar. 20, 1963  Tax-Exempt Foundations: Privileges and Policies
Oct. 12, 1955  Joint Fund Raising
Sep. 11, 1953  Charity Appeals
Jan. 05, 1949  Tax Exempt Foundations
Charities and Philanthropy