U.K. Group Ranks U.S. Most Charitable Nation

It’s often been said that the United States is the most charitable country in the world, and now there’s more data to prove it.

The World Giving Index (WGI) gave the U.S. an overall score of 60 percent, — the first time a country has reached that score — placing it first in this year’s ranking. The 2010 study ranked Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada ahead of the U.S., which was tied for fifth with Switzerland.

The WGI is published by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) America, a member organization of United Kingdom-based Charities Aid Foundation International Network of Offices. The 68-page report is based on 150,000 Gallup polling interviews with members of the public in 153 countries that together represent 95 percent of the world’s population.

Three aspects of the giving behavior are examined in the study: asking individuals whether they have done any of the following in the past month; donated money to a charity, volunteered time to an organization; and/or, helped a stranger. Though the U.S. did not rank first in any of the three categories, it was the only nation to rank in the top 10 among all three, for a stronger average overall score.

The percentage giving money for the U.S. was 65 percent, tied for 10th with Malta. Thailand was first with 85 percent, followed by the U.K. at 79 percent and Ireland and Netherlands, each with 75 percent. The percentage of respondents who said they volunteered their time in the U.S. was 43 percent, behind Tajikstan (44 percent), Sri Lanka (46 percent), Liberia (48 percent), and Turkmenistan (61 percent). As for the percentage of people who said they helped a stranger, only Liberia’s 81 percent was greater than America’s 73 percent.

Ireland increased its overall score, from 56 percent to 59 percent, jumping it to second place. Despite increasing their scores, Australia (58 percent) and New Zealand (57 percent) dropped to third and fourth, respectively. United Kingdom ranked fifth at 57 percent. Sixteen of the top 20 countries are the same as in 2010, according to the survey. Four new countries in the top 20 are Thailand at No. 9 with 51 percent, and Liberia and Nigeria, both 47 percent and ranked 13th. Canada (No. 7), Sri Lanka (No. 8) and Malta (No. 19) were the only nations to see a drop from last year’s score.

Bringing up the rear in overall scores were Madagascar and Burundi, both with scores of 12; Rwanda, 16; Cote D’Ivoire, 19; and Togo and Mozambique, both with scores of 20.

The top 10 nations overall were:

  • United States
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Netherlands
  • Canada
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Laos

“The impressive rise from fifth to first is a fantastic reflection of the mindset, capability and spirit of the American people,” said Richard Harrison, director of research at the Charities Aid Foundation in the United Kingdom. To arrive at the overall score, the three percentages for each category were averaged out to give “a simple, understandable view of giving for countries around the world,” he said.

The margin of error was +/- 3 percent and the CAF worked with data downloaded in May 2011 while Gallup surveyed 1,000 questionnaires by a representative sample of people living across the country.

In the United States, 65 percent of those surveyed said they gave money to a charity in the past month — up from 60 percent in last year’s report – making the nation 10th most likely to give money. The percentage of Americans who said they volunteered in the past month also was up, from 39 percent last year, to 43 percent.

Approximately 73 percent of Americans said they helped a stranger in the past month, up from 65 percent. It was the category with the highest score for the U.S., trailing only Liberia among all 153 nations. It was the America’s best ranking among the three questions and the one that saw the biggest jump from last year.

The average provided an “understandable view of giving for countries around the world,” said Harrison.

The hashtag #worldgivingindex was established to follow observations about the study on Twitter. Harrison said they will mine the social network to produce a study that might explain the way, and code those tweets.

“The great, heartwarming news, is that over two years, overall giving has gone up,” said CAF America Interim CEO and Director of Finance David Venne. Volunteering and helping strangers also have seen increases, albeit small, he said, but that’s to be expected for a huge survey like this. The majority of the 13 global regions in the survey move collectively only between 1 and 2 percent, he said.

Venne noted that Giving USA’s data for 2010 was consistent with the results, and he expects to see a continued increase in international giving in the coming year. The outpouring of financial support in response to natural disasters in Haiti and Japan supports the WGI’s finding and its most basic concept of helping a stranger, Venne said.

“On this side of the pond, it’s been very clear for us that you guys have been suffering as much as us the last few years,” Harrison said. “The point to leave with American leaders is the world really needs America; it needs its generosity, its resource and spirit, and though times are really hard, this is the time we need to keep giving as much as we possibly can.”