Introduction: How Philanthropy Fuels American Success

Introduction: How Philanthropy Fuels American Success

Article posted in General on 16 June 2017| comments
audience: National Publication | last updated: 16 June 2017


The importance of philanthropy in America is more than the good works that are the outcomes but also its economic impact. The category is a huge employer and represents a large part of our economy.

Philanthropy is a huge part of what makes America America.

Start with the brute numbers: Our nonprofit sector now employs 11 percent of the U.S. workforce. It will contribute around 6 percent of GDP in 2015 (up from 3 percent in 1960). And this doesn’t take into account volunteering—the equivalent of an additional 5 to 10 million full-time employees (depending on how you count), offering labor worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

America’s fabled “military-industrial complex” is often used as a classic example of a formidable industry. Well guess what? The nonprofit sector passed the national defense sector in size way back in 1993.

And philanthropy’s importance stretches far beyond economics. Each year, seven out of ten Americans donate to at least one charitable cause. Contributions are from two to twenty times higher in the U.S. than in other countries of comparable wealth and modernity. Private giving is a deeply ingrained part of our culture—a font of social creativity and crucial source of new solutions to national problems. Voluntary efforts to repair social weaknesses, enrich our culture, and strengthen American community life are and always have been a hallmark of our country.

Yet, somehow, there exists no definitive resource that chronicles ­American philanthropy broadly and explains it in a context where it can be fully understood and appreciated. Until now.

This entirely new Almanac of American Philanthropy offers everyday citizens, givers, charity workers, journalists, local and national leaders, and others the information needed to put in perspective the vital role that philanthropy plays in all of our daily lives. The facts, stories, and history contained in these pages can fill gaping practical and intellectual holes in our self-awareness.

You will find here an authoritative collection of the major achievements of U.S. philanthropy, lively profiles of the greatest givers (large and small), and rich compilations of the most important ideas, statistics, polls, literature, quotations, and thinking on this quintessentially American topic.

There are also Iliads and Odysseys of human interest in this volume. Some tremendously intriguing Americans of all stripes have poured time and treasure into helping their fellow man. You’ll meet lots of them here.

Absent the passion and resources that our fellow countrymen devote to philanthropy, it’s not only our nation that would be less thriving. Our individual days would be flatter, darker, uglier, more dangerous, and less happy. You’ll find vivid evidence of that in machine-gun presentations throughout this volume. Let’s get a taste by meeting a few of the hundreds of philanthropists who live in the middle of this book.

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