The Charity Gap
April 4, 2007; Page A15
As Americans prepare their tax returns, many will be toting up their tax-deductible donations. Whether it is support for a church or hospital or their alma mater, they have every reason to feel good about what they're doing.
But there is a surprising disconnect between Americans' philanthropic aspirations and their charitable giving. The vast majority of givers believe the bulk of their donations help those less fortunate than themselves. In fact, less than one-third of the money individuals gave to nonprofits in 2005 went to help the economically disadvantaged, according to a new study commissioned by Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google. Of the $250 billion in donations, less than $78 billion explicitly targeted those in need.
The analysis, carried out by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, concluded that only 8% of donations provide food, shelter or other basic necessities. At most, an additional 23% is directed to the poor -- either providing other direct benefits (such as medical treatment and scholarships) or through initiatives creating opportunity and empowerment (such as literacy and job training programs). It's just not true, in other words, that the major beneficiaries of charity and philanthropy are the disadvantaged.