by Bruce Walker
Despite the Great Recession that has led to financial strain among millions of households in the United States, Americans have proven time and again that they are charitable people, and the statistics confirm this.
According to the 57th annual report by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, donations to charity increased to $298.42 billion in 2011, a jump of about four percent. Although the numbers are still about $11 billion below the 2007 record of $309.7 billion, both households and corporations are digging into their sometimes empty pockets.
In total, the study estimated that 117 million U.S. households, 99,000 estates, 12 million corporations and 76,000 foundations donated to charity in 2011. Their donations went to roughly 1.1 million registered charities and about 222,000 American religious organizations.
Even the youth of America are taking part in philanthropic endeavors. The top five charitable donors consisted of three couples under the age of 40: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan ($498.8 million), John and Laura Arnold ($423.4 million) and Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki ($222.9 million).
The National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) also published specific figures, including a fact that public charities reported more than $1.51 trillion in total revenues and $1.45 trillion in total expenses in 2010. Americans are not only giving money, but also their time. The same NCCS report found that 26.3 percent of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered between 2009 and 2010.
Whether it’s voluntary contributions to arts programs, health initiatives, sports for kids groups or post-secondary institutions, philanthropic endeavors can be found all over the world, including a deregistered physician, who is now working closely in the philanthropy industry.
For the past three decades, Geoffrey Edelsten, a former Australian medical doctor, has worked closely with various charities and organizations. Throughout his career, Edelsten has made contributions to such groups as Music Rostrum Australia, a charity that nurtures young music talent, the Autistic Children’s Association, the Australian Sports Foundation, RCH Child Cancer Centre, Fight Cancer Foundation, Chabad of Melbourne and American Women’s Auxiliary to the RCH.
Edelsten even donated to his former school Mt. Scopus Memorial College.
In 2009, Edelsten married Brynne Gordon, an event that was attended by more than 500 people. The entire wedding, paid for by Edelsten and not his charity, was for the benefit of donations. Three months before his wedding, Edelsten founded a non-profit organization called the Great Expectations Foundation. The couple asked attendees to make donations to the charity instead of giving wedding presents.
Edelsten said at the time of his wedding that every dollar collected by his charity will go towards its beneficiaries, such as BeyondBlue, the Royal Children’s Hospital and Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross.
Since then, Edelsten has given nearly $2 million in his philanthropic ventures. One particular non-profit, however, remains one of his top priorities: The Fred Hollows Foundation, a charity that was founded in 1992 that increases eye care services around the globe.
Established by the late Professor Fred Hollows, the foundation has now expanded into various impoverished communities of Australia, Africa and Southeast and South Asia. Its charitable work focuses on blindness prevention and Australian Indigenous health.
The Global Journal listed the Fred Hollows Foundation as the top 50 best non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“It is great that The Fred Hollows Foundation has been named one of the world’s best NGOs. I think it helps show that saving sight has global impact, boosting economies and improving people’s lives,” said Joe Boughton-Dent, the Foundation’s Community Education Manager, in a news release. “Fred Hollows didn’t like to have his name up in lights but he would be proud of this achievement because of what it says about how The Fred Hollows Foundation work. We are absolutely about innovation, impact and sustainability, the criteria used to compile this list of the world’s best NGOs.”
Due to the generous contributions of thousands of supporters and the hard work of its staff, the foundation has looked into the eyes of more than 1.6 million people, constructed or renovated 50 eye health facilities, delivered $3.38 million of medical equipment, conducted eye operations and treatments on nearly 283,000 individuals and assisted in training close to 11,000 medical and support staff.