The World Giving Index Reveals Good & Bad News

As a result of continued worldwide economic turmoil in 2011, the news about giving around the globe is mixed:


  • The good news is that the world gave more in 2011 than it did in 2010, taking into account money donated, volunteerism, and helping a stranger.


  • The bad news is that the number of people donating money worldwide has gone down. The overall increase in giving came from the increase in volunteerism and helping a stranger.


  • The news for Americans is very good. The United States moved from a fifth place ranking in 2010 to the top spot in 2011 making it “the world’s most giving nation.”


  • The news is also good for Asians. As a region, Asia has seen the largest growth in overall giving.


World Giving Index 2011 -- Map with Country Rank


These insights come from the World Giving Index 2011, published recently by The Charities Aid Foundation, an international charity based in the United Kingdom. The report, compiled from survey data provided by Gallup, ranks charitable behavior in 153 nations. The ranking is based on three measures:

Have you done any of the following in the past month?:

  • Donated money to a charity?
  • Volunteered your time to an organisation?
  • Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?”

The global average of the three giving behaviors in 2011 was 32.4 percent, up from 31.6 percent in 2010. More specifically, there has been a two percent increase in the global population “Helping a Stranger” and a one percent increase in people “Volunteering.” Unfortunately, the sluggish worldwide economy might be to blame for a one percent decrease in the number of people who gave money to a charity.

In 2011, the top ten most giving countries were:

United States of America



New Zealand

United Kingdom



Sri Lanka


Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Interestingly, national wealth and giving do not necessarily go together. Only five of the nations in the World Bank’s ranking of the top 20 nations by Gross Domestic Product per capita appear in the World Giving Index 2011 listing of the 20 most giving countries.

For the complete results of the study including recommendations from the authors for what policies can encourage greater giving, you can download the complete World Giving Index 2011 here.

For the US, there’s more good news from a completely separate study, Blackbaud Index. The January 2012 edition reports:

Fundraising has returned to pre-recession levels. Through the first 11 months of 2011, overall giving is up 3.4 percent over 2010, and is now officially above the level of giving last seen in 2007.”

This news is not especially surprising. There has been a strong correlation between GDP and charitable giving. Historically, giving has been about two percent of GDP. So, as the economy grows, we can expect that giving will follow. Of course, as we have seen, the converse is also true.

I invite you to share your thoughts below about either study. If you want to comment on Twitter about the World Giving Index 2011, CAF encourages you to use the following hashtag: #WorldGivingIndex; a summary of Twitter feedback will be included in next year’s report.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

11 Responses to “The World Giving Index Reveals Good & Bad News”

  1. Actual statistics on helping a stranger? Come on, Michael, someone is pulling your leg or perhaps a more sensitive body part.

    • Jeff, thanks for being the first to comment on this post. And, thank you for your concern for my sensitive parts. For those who are interested in the research methodology, the report includes a description of it. The report is based on data collected from Gallup, a highly respected polling operation. The Charities Aid Foundation, author of the report, is a highly regarded international organization. While the question about helping a stranger may be open to interpretation, the question has been consistently asked from country to country and from year to year; that consistency provides some credibility. Finally, since the USA came out on top, I’m not going to spend too much time looking behind the curtain. 🙂

      • I, too, don’t wish to drag this out but:

        1) About reputations: for many years, one of the most highly respected investment managers was Bernie Madoff. As far as I’m concerned (to say nothing of scientific method) reputation counts for bupkus.

        2) About surveys: The Nielson box on my TV set says I’m tuned to the Playboy Channel. But when Gallup calls me, I tell them I’m watching the Metropolitan Opera on PBS. Who ya gonna believe?

        Food for thought.

      • Jeff, thank you for sharing your television viewing habits with the world. 🙂 On a serious note, your critique would seem to discredit all surveys. While surveys are not always reliable, I’m not quite prepared to assume they are all bogus. In the case of the survey for the World Giving Index 2010, I suspect that Gallup provided CAF with the margin of error for the surveys. Nevertheless, I take your point and believe it’s wise to take the results with a grain of salt.

        My concerns with the methodology are a bit different than yours.

        First, the notion of “helping a stranger” is vague and can mean different things to different people and in different cultures. Also, does all “helping a stranger” really rise to the level of “giving”?

        Second, the report says that the USA is the most giving nation on Earth. I’m not so sure. In the USA, a significant amount of what we consider philanthropy is covered by taxes in other nations. For example, in the USA, we donate to hospitals. In many other countries, tax dollars pay for those services. Likewise, many other countries use more tax dollars to support the arts than we do in the USA. I’m sure the good folks at CAF would point out that this is irrelevant since they were measuring voluntary behavior. However, I think an arguement can be made that taxation in a democratic society is, at least to a certain extent, voluntary. And, when measuring the generosity of a nation, it seems only fair to look at all spending in an equalized way. Otherwise, we’re not really making an apples-to-apples comparison.

        Nevertheless, I think the CAF report provides some interesting food for thought.

  2. Regardless of the scientific methodology or cultural differences, and the like, this post at least demonstrates trends. The trend is upward for people helping others.

    Logic and many other reports confirm that when people have less money, they donate less. With the rising fuel costs and worry about the economy, it is natural for people to turn inward, financially. But it seems that people are still continuing to give more of their time than the previous year.

    The other statistic that stands out is that more than 6 of 10 people are not giving of their time, money or resources. Perhaps that will challenge a few people to consider making a change in their lives.

    Thanks for the post.

    • eyeBrand, thank you for sharing your thoughts. While the study may not be perfect, I agree that it certainly has some value. For example, I agree with you that it is comforting to know that people still have a giving spirit even if they lack the means to give as much cash. I think it will be interesting to see, as the economy and cash giving recover, whether volunteerism and helping a stranger remains where it is or becomes scaled-back.

  3. Some thoughts:

    Some of the difficulties of getting accurate data are cultural and religious. Many Asians believe that claiming “recognition” for their philanthropic / community support will take away the good Karma linked with the giving.

    Hence the culture and practise of philanthropy in these societies are very private and personal, unlike that practised by the well intended “Giving Pledge” champions like Gates and Buffett.

    Additionally, the tax structure in many Asian countries does not incentivise giving. Hence, when an individual makes a philanthropic contribution, it is not motivated by tax planning. On the contrary, the donor may attract undue attention of the tax-man if their giving levels are known.

    So, in many cases we are comparing apples with oranges. However, having some benchmark is always good and CAF must be thanked for their annual effort to track and create content that otherwise is not available, especially in the emerging markets.

    • Usha, thank you for pointing out some of the challenges involved with comparing giving behaviors around the world. I’m not sure what, if anything, CAF and Gallup did to minimize cultural and religious bias. In any case, I applaud CAF for looking at philanthropy, in its various forms, around the world. I think its important, particularly for those in the West, to understand that we do not have a monopoly on philanthropy and fundraising. And, there’s much we can learn from each other.


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