- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006



The urgent needs created by three major natural disasters — the tsunami in Asia, an earthquake in Pakistan and Hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Wilma — drove American philanthropy to its highest level since the end of the technology boom, a study showed.

The report released today by the Giving USA Foundation estimates that in 2005, Americans gave $260.28 billion, a rise of 6.1 percent over the previous year, which approaches the inflation-adjusted high of $260.53 billion that was reached in 2000.

About half of the overall increase of $15 billion over 2004 went directly to aid victims of the disasters. The rest of the increase, meanwhile, still can be traced to the disasters because they may have raised public awareness of other charities.

“When there is a very significant need, when people are clearly aware of that need, they will respond,” said Richard Jolly, the chairman of Giving USA. “Were it not for the disasters, what we would have expected is more of a flat number. With the staggering need generated by the disasters, it’s very in keeping with what has happened in the past: The American public stepped forward and provided additional support.”

The three natural disasters generated about $7.37 billion, which was 2.8 percent of total giving. Of that amount, people contributed $5.83 billion, or 79 percent, while corporations added $1.38 billion, or 19 percent.

Excluding disaster relief, the report indicates that there still would have been a rise in gifts from both people and corporations. In the 51 years that Giving USA has tracked philanthropy, giving has increased with the wealth of the nation. Since 1965, total contributions have been between 1.7 percent and 2.3 percent of gross domestic product. The highest level was reached at the end of the technology boom in 2000. For 2005, it was estimated to be 2.1 percent of GDP.

Disaster relief may have “crowded out” giving to other recipients of international aid. Without the $1.14 billion in relief contributions, giving to this sector fell to $5.25 billion, a decline of 1.9 percent, or an inflation-adjusted drop of 5.1 percent.

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