On Giving

22 Sep

The world needs heroes. I’m not talking about in an abstraction. I’m not talking about people in tights. I mean the world desperately needs people to stand up and do what’s right. The world needs people to stop complaining about what is wrong and to actually CHANGE the things that need changing. People who sacrifice and make changes, not for themselves or even their own children, but instead for the world. Fortunately, these heroes are here. We are here.

Charities. Civil Sector Organizations. Foundations. Non-for-Profits. No matter what you call them, they are an incredibly important part of our society. And they are growing. The number of Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) has more than doubled in the past twenty years. The sector, as a whole, is worth over $1.2 trillion a year. By comparison? Farming in the United States takes in less than $0.1 trillion a year.

Charitable donations are at over $300 Billion. Eighty-three percent of that came from private individuals. Seventy percent of households donate. The average donation? Over $2,500. In 2006, over twenty-six percent of American adults volunteered their time with a charity. Six point five percent of the population a day. That’s over fifteen MILLION PEOPLE, every day. The amount they volunteered? Almost thirteen BILLION hours. That’s the equivalent of seven point six million full time workers. That’s not counting the paid employees. The average hourly wage in the United States is $22.60. Those thirteen billion hours are the equivalent of $293 billion in wages.

NPO’s generate a lot of money through sales of services, tuition, and grants. That’s because they do a lot. Most hospitals are NPOs. Same with most Universities. It’s more than just the YMCA and the Red Cross. There are millions of NPOs and they are vital to our society.

Why do I love NPOs so much? Because they perform a vital function in our world. They bridge the gap between the private sector and the public sector. They do jobs that aren’t profitable more efficiently than governments. They innovate, and most importantly, they make a difference.

There is a lot going wrong in the world. So much going wrong. There are wars on every continent (except Antarctica). There are over a billion people without clean water. Sixteen thousand children die every day from lack of food. These are massive problems. The governments of the world are moving to fix them, but they can only move so fast. They must care for their citizens first. NPOs are how those citizens do what their governments can’t.

It can take months or years for a bill allowing the dispensation of state funds to pass in a Western Modern Democracy. NPOs are smaller and faster. Many times, it doesn’t take THAT much money to make a difference. What it takes is hard work, determination, and a willingness to figure out what works. That is where the Non-Profits come in. They can work with people governments can’t or won’t. While the government is still debating whether a problem is really a problem, NPOs will step up and start addressing it.

NPOs are one of the fasted growing sectors of our economy. They are fueled not by greed, but by a desire to get things done. They are how ordinary people achieve extraordinary things. A dentist may not know how to feed children in Malawi. A plumber doesn’t know how to help child soldiers in Uganda. But by pooling their resources, by giving their time, they are changing lives.

Bit by bit, the people of the world are making changes. Bit by bit we are fixing our world. Not because we are paid to. Not because we are made to. But because we want to. And that gives me more hope than anything else.


For the hourly wage statistic: http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab3.htm

For facts on NPOs:



For a quick rundown on the industry:

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