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In America, Generosity Outweighed Hardship and Unprecedented Events

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sharif Shamroukh
July 25, 2021

When the COVID-19 era started in early March of 2020, everyone probably thought that the nation would never see hope for recovery, especially millions of hard-working individuals who lost their jobs and barely survived out of government unemployment payments and multiple stimulus acts. The sentiment could be true if we relied on emotions or non-factual thoughts for evaluations. The fact is that when one reads through numbers, things undoubtedly show different outcomes, especially when providing specific figures of how people responded to relief needs domestically and abroad.

Every year, Giving USA Foundation issues an annual report about the nation’s contributions to philanthropic causes. This comprehensive report helps to make informed decisions by government officials and leaders of nonprofit organizations. The latest report issued on June 2021 showed, without a doubt, that the American people are the most generous people on earth. It would be the conclusion of my article that I preferred to put here upfront. It is important to mention that the purpose of this article is not to analyze and discuss the many factors presented in the report. Thus, there are two important highlights that I would offer here that support my conclusion.

The first significant outcome of the report showed that the total giving to various philanthropic causes reached $471.44 billion in 2020 from individuals, endowments, foundations and corporations, with an increase of 5.1% in giving compared to the previous year. The second outcome is the giving by individuals that totaled an estimated $324.10 billion with a rise of 2.2% in 2020 and considered the highest giving figure among all sources of giving categories with approximately 69% share of the total giving.

Let us not forget the year 2020, which filled with countless unprecedented events and challenges, besides economic crises that caused distractions to businesses and workforces. When learning that the individual donors exceeded two-thirds of the total giving along with a lightly significant increase in contributions, immediately we can tell that the nightmare of COVID-19 and all its consequences played a major role in making a case for urgent need to give more to all charitable causes, especially those that were categorized as pandemic-related urgencies. Therefore, it was not surprising to see the overwhelming response of people to help fight the pandemic and contribute to saving lives. This is what you expect from sympathetic, motivated individuals. The increase of individual giving came as an ordinary result of self-motivated people who discovered themselves all riding the same boat in challenging the unwelcomed guest that proposed attacks to all communities. The loss of beloved ones, relatives, friends and even personally unknown casualties of the pandemic made it an obligation to give more so that all people became united to dismantle the tragedies that were caused by the pandemic.

Further, it is important to stress that despite the individuals’ desperate need for financial help during the pandemic due to job losses and COVID-related restrictions, individuals bypassed selfish measures and gave more to charitable needs as the least they could do in the war against pandemic and all its consequences.

Most importantly, with the promising outcome of individual giving throughout the year 2020, nonprofit organizations’ decisionmakers and strategists should be able to make more wise decisions when designating resource development strategies for their respected organizations and warrant the maximum ROI’s when knowing the important role of individual giving compared to other categories of giving.

As far as policy, specifically when writing about government decisions to support individual taxpayers through stimulus packages, it is important to realize that those funds were worth spending because individual taxpayers showed high responsibility towards public crisis. By making their contributions, individuals sided with other entities of the nation to overcome these hard times. Therefore, by making policies to help individual taxpayers, the government should be comfortable and well-assured that portions of the funds they gave to individuals in the form of stimulus packages came back on the frontlines side-by-side to help fight the pandemic and support other necessities that return to community interests.

Accordingly, individuals, as a whole, always were on the side of the solution when given the right tools to act and show their abilities to contribute. The high stake of participation in contributing to various causes that required urgent relief showed that the power is always in people’s hands. The amount of each individual’s contribution does not matter, since it makes a positive change.

A significant portion of nonprofit organizations focus on other means of categories for their resource developments other than individuals. Although these resources work well and suffice the needs of respected organizations, it is essential to reconsider their strategies to give more attention to individual donors and enhance their current approaches to gain more from the generosity of individuals.


Author: Dr. Sharif Shamroukh is a Senior Lecturer at the American Institute for Philanthropy Advancement, and frequently writes about various public policy issues. Also, Dr. Shamroukh provides consulting services to nonprofit organizations covering a wide range of topics that help achieve their missions.

Contact Dr. Shamroukh via e-mail: [email protected] or Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter @DrShamroukh

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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