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US Private Giving Abroad Vastly Exceeds US Government Aid

A new survey of U.S. philanthropy shows that in 2004 Americans gave at least $71 billion to international causes, more than 3 1/2 times the U.S. foreign aid budget in 2004 of $21.3 billion.

The inaugural issue of the Index of Global Philanthropy documents donations to the developing world by non-governmental U.S. groups, businesses, foundations and individuals.

Financial donations, volunteer time, goods, remittances and expertise are included.

The index was developed by the Center for Global Prosperity at the Hudson Institute, a private research group. Carol Adelman, the director of the Center, says corporations have led the way in private giving. "When corporations go into a developing country they are not only creating the investment in jobs, but they are creating infrastructure. They are building roads; they are creating schools, which is never even counted as their corporate philanthropy. In addition, many, many corporations are in countries doing actual programs, not just donating medicines. For example, in Botswana the Merck Company and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have each put $50 million in to create a program that is now treating millions of people for HIV/ AIDS. They are not just sending medicine over, but they are helping train doctors and they are helping leave in place institutions that will be there when they are gone," he said.

Stephen Jordan, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says the survey is a reflection of the positive benefits of globalization. "You can look at it from a U.S.-centric point of view, but you can also look at it from a global view. On the one hand, U.S. overseas development assistance represents a quarter of overseas development assistance, which is a lot. But then you can also think that 75 percent of all overseas assistance comes from other countries as well. I think that this is a process that globalization helps to facilitate, which is the exchange of practices and tools and techniques from one region of the world to another," he said.

Jordan says 2005 was a watershed year for U.S. philanthropy, with the American private sector giving $566 million in aid for tsunami relief and more than $100 million to assist victims of a Pakistan's devastating earthquake. The outpouring of private aid, he says, is another sign that Americans recognize how interconnected the world has become.

The first Philanthropy Index focuses on U.S. philanthropy, but future surveys will include international giving.