YOU MAY NOT have an extra $30 billion to hand over for humanitarian projects (like WARREN BUFFET did), a book titled Giving on the bestseller list (BILL CLINTON), or a reality show called The Big Give on network TV (OPRAH), but, AVERAGE AMERICAN CITIZEN, we salute you anyway.
According to the Giving USA Foundation, about 90 percent of U.S. households earn less than $100,000. Yet 65 percent of them, or about 65 million families, contribute almost 60 percent of all individual donations. In 2006, total private contributions in this country added up to $223 billion. Add corporate and institutional giving to the pile and it grows to nearly $300 billion. That's roughly the GDP of Poland and about the same as what we spent on the war in Iraq between 2003 and 2006.
Statistics aren't yet out for 2007, but we're willing to wager that American giving will surpass the $300 billion mark by the end of the year. Why? Because whether you're mountaineer-turned-philanthropist GREG MORTENSON, who got American kids to collect 15 million pennies to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and who co-wrote Three Cups of Tea, the ensuing bestselling book about his experiences, or BILL AND MELINDA GATES, who donated billions to bring health care and education to the masses, generosity hasn't been so cool since the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller. This frenzied altruism may be driven by a collective urge to right our nation's karma or a competition to one-up Bono and Brangelina. But it doesn't really matter how it happened. Just use the momentum to take stock of what you've been given, look around (globalgiving.com is a good place to start), and see how you can pay it forward.