Global Giving

Philanthropy to global causes has grown faster than any other non-profit sector. If you immediately think of natural disasters as the reason for this increase, you are partly correct.

The 2004 Asian Tsunami and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti were experienced and witnessed all over the world. Technology has collapsed the distances of world events into our living room televisions, car radios, laptops, and iPads. There is heightened awareness of worldwide events from the moment we wake up until we retire at night, as we are bombarded with information via the never-sleeping media.

Community no longer means Main Street, USA. It is reflective of our lives as global citizens. 

According to Una Osili, Ph.D., a recent speaker at the Giving Institute in Leesburg, Virginia, giving internationally may be the purest form of philanthropy. Individuals are motivated to give to help someone they have never met and may never meet – and their dollars may have a greater impact in a developing country than at home in the United States.

Dr. Osili, who is on faculty at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, said that philanthropists are no longer giving in just their own countries. She cited an example of a Russian philanthropist, who set up a foundation in the UK that benefits developing nations half-way around the world.

Nevertheless, if one considers trends in million dollar giving, the U.S. data shows that giving is still very local.

32% of all giving goes to the city the donor lives in and 64% is given to the donor’s home state. Only 1% of gifts are made to foreign and overseas organizations or to U.S. foundations that are operating internationally.

In 1990, this figure was $2.2 billion; in 2008 it was $6.2 billion (almost three times greater!). International grant dollars from all types of foundations increased 182% over the same time frame.

Corporate giving reflects this trend as well:

  • Exxon has concentrated its corporate philanthropy on malaria, which affects many of the countries from which it gets oil.
  • Intel supports causes for women and children, as 50% of its employees are located outside the U.S.
  • Coca-Cola and DELTA, which used to be Atlanta-centric in giving, now target the globe with their charitable endeavors.

What are the uses of international giving?

  1. Health concerns, 24%
  2. Humanitarian or disaster aid, 15%
  3. Community development, 12%
  4. Educational causes, 11%.

Although humanitarian aid and disaster relief elicit strong philanthropic responses and generally attract a higher percentage of donors than general international aid, the size of the donations are much smaller. Whereas 71% of high net worth households reported giving to disaster relief, it only amounted to 4.3% of all high net worth dollars.

The United States itself was the recipient of global giving following Hurricane Katrina. More than $6 billion of foreign aid was given in response to one of the worst natural disasters this country has ever experienced.

Who gives to global causes?

Donors tend to be younger, better educated, living in urban environments, and technologically savvy. They define community as “community of purpose” rather than geography.

For more information about global giving, see:

Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Giving USA

Center of Philanthropy Panel Study