Between 2010 and 2011, the world witnessed a sharp fall in generosity as global economic growth slowed. The number of people who have donated money, volunteered time and helped a stranger has fallen significantly.
For the United States, there is even more bad news. The US lost the distinction of being the world’s most “generous country,” falling back to fifth place.
This bad news comes from The World Giving Index 2012. The Charities Aid Foundation, an international charity based in the United Kingdom, published the findings recently. The report, compiled from survey data provided by Gallup, ranks charitable behavior in 148 nations. CAF bases the rankings 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 CAF report reveals, “In 2010, 65 percent of Americans said that they had donated money to charity in the previous month. That figure fell by eight percentage points to 57 percent in 2011.” This helps explain the American drop in the rankings.
The news for Australia is much better as that nation reclaimed the number one spot. “In a typical month, more than two-thirds of Australians donate money to charity and help a stranger. More than a third volunteer,” according to the report.
In 2011, the top ten most giving countries were:
United States of America
In 2011, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic lost their spots in the top 10 list that they had held the previous year. They were replaced by Indonesia, Paraguay, and Denmark.
Unfortunately, while the news for some individual countries is good, the report reveals that the overall world picture is not when one looks at the percentage of the population engaging in the various giving behaviors:
In the case of donating money the net decline, between 2007 and 2011, was almost two percentage points (falling from 29.8% to 28.0%). In the case of helping a stranger, it was also almost two percentage points (falling from 47.0% to 45.1%), and in the case of volunteering time it fell by three percentage points (falling from 21.4% to 18.4%).”
While participation had begun to recover in 2010 following the Great Recession of 2009, 2011 saw global Gross Domestic Product growth slow. The report cites the weakening of the world economy as one reason for the decline in giving behaviors.
However, the CAF speculates that there could also be an additional reason: “Most strikingly, the World Disaster Report 2012 shows that the two years when giving declined sharply – 2009 and 2011 – were also the only years since 2002 to witness fewer than 600 disasters globally.” It seems that a drop in GDP growth and the number of disasters could both have contributed to the decline in giving.
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 2012 here.
The report also contains a description of the methodology that CAF used. One can quibble with that methodology. However, CAF has consistently used the same approach while engaging the same highly reputable research agency. Therefore, the report does give us a valid look at trends. While perhaps not providing the most complete and accurate examination of global giving that might be possible, the World Giving Index 2012 is nevertheless the most comprehensive report available.
I thank CAF for furthering our understanding of world philanthropic behavior.
I invite you to share your thoughts here about the study and the state of giving in your own country. If you want to comment on Twitter about the World Giving Index 2012, CAF encourages you to use the following hashtag: #WorldGivingIndex.
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?